I’m a bit ambivalent over the announcement of the new hosts of the game show JEOPARDY!
Mike “Richards will kick off Season 38 as the full-time host of the syndicated show… [Mayim] Bialik will serve as the host of Jeopardy!’s primetime and spinoff series, including the upcoming all-new Jeopardy! National College Championship. Richards will continue to serve as executive producer of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.”
On one hand, as the EP, Richards clearly knows how the game is played. He helped coach the over a dozen guest hosts who have appeared since Alex Trebek’s death. On the other hand, and many others noted this, it’s not entirely unlike Dick Cheney being in charge of finding a Vice-Presidential candidate for George W. Bush, and deciding he’s the best qualified, though other SONY suits weighed in.
JEOPARDY fans have noted the diverse pool of guest hosts, after which they pick Richards, much to the chagrin of quite a few. Is it his fault that he’s a little dull and looks like a Ken doll? He does have some limited game show hosting credentials: High School Reunion, Divided ; The Pyramid; Dailies and Beauty and the Geek , but over 4000 hours of producing credits.
Many have pointed out that Alex Trebek told TMZ in 2018 his top choice as his Jeopardy successor. “There is an attorney, Laura Coates,” Trebek told TMZ’s Harvey Levin. “She’s African-American, and she appears on some of the cable news shows from time to time.” Whether she was even interested in the job, I don’t know.
The Price Is Right
Richards previously worked as Executive Producer on The Price Is Right. A lawsuit claimed he engaged in “pregnancy discrimination in two complaints filed by former Price Is Right models. He was accused of making insensitive statements and taking other questionable actions around models on the show who became pregnant.
“‘These were allegations made in employment disputes against the show. I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am… I would not say anything to disrespect anyone’s pregnancy and have always supported my colleagues on their parenting journeys.’
“Richards got a notably public boost of support from Price Is Right host Drew Carey. Carey credited Richards with making the show’s famous showroom models a much bigger part of the show. ‘He took them from just bodies on the stage to actual people that audiences could get to know as part of the TPIR family,’ Carey wrote.”
It’s all in the game
Meanwhile, I AM pleased by Mayim Bialik’s role in the JEOPARDY brand expansion, although I’m unclear what that will look like. She was among the best candidates, and I watched them all. And one assumes that most of the guest hosts didn’t want to leave their regular gigs.
Hosting JEOPARDY requires some particular skills. Welcoming the contestants and making as though you care about them in the interview section. Reading the clues and indicating whether the contestants’ responses are right or wrong in a timely fashion, trying to vary them: “Yes,” “Right,” “Correct.”
A good host will tell you about where we are in the game. If someone hits the Daily Double, Alex would indicate that the player could take the lead, or get closer, or make it difficult for their opponents.
The hosts in the last few weeks had the difficulty of having a champion, Matt Amadio, who not only won a dozen and a half games and over half a million dollars, but most of his matches were runaway contests. This means that the outcome of Final JEOPARDY often did not matter.
Some folks are enraged by the choice of Mike Richards. I’m not. I admit that I was pulling for LeVar Burton before his appearance, but he wasn’t one of the better guest hosts, unfortunately. And him openly campaigning for the job, I dare say, didn’t help his chances.
But if Richards’ ratings tank, expect that the hosting conversation will be reconsidered.