Fire “Milkshake Duck” Mike Richards

Jeopardy – not just another syndicated game show

Milkshake Duck
Show #7894 – Thursday, December 27, 2018. A triple stumper.

I learned a new term very recently. It’s Milkshake Duck. Hey, it’s only been around since 2016.

The term is “an Internet meme that describes people who gain viral popularity on social media for some positive or charming trait but are later revealed to have distasteful histories or offensive behavior.”

Know Your Meme: On June 12th, 2016, Twitter user @pixelatedboat posted a tweet about the internet’s love for ‘Milkshake Duck,’ followed by the revelation ‘we regret to inform you the duck is racist’. Within one year, the tweet gained over 22,700 likes and 9,600 retweets.” Huh? Whatever.

Short-lived host

Mike Richards was pleasant enough as a fill-in host of Jeopardy. But, as you may know, he stepped down as the newly-named permanent host of the show,  following reports of a number of inappropriate comments he made on a podcast that ran in 2013 and 2014. The podcast was appropriately named The Randumb Show.

Much of the offensive comments that targeted Jews, Haitians, and especially women are documented extensively in The Ringer, as well as mentioned in  Parade. Just one example:  him calling his colleague on-air a “booth ho” and “booth slut.”

I now believe Mike Richards should resign – or be fired – as JEOPARDY’s Executive Producer because he has harmed the show.

Institutional memory lost

Long-time executive producer Harry Fridman retired in May 2020, after 23 years. “Then, just months into Richards’s debut season, Trebek died due to complications of pancreatic cancer.” And though it started before Richards’ tenure, Glenn Kagan, longtime coordinator on the show, says “he was discriminated against based on his age and ultimately fired from the show on the pretense of Covid-19 safety procedures, while being replaced by a much younger employee.

There were other recent departures of several key staffers—including the longtime head of the contestant department, Maggie Speak, and stage manager John Lauderdale. Add to that “the taping difficulties caused by the pandemic, which left many staff members working from home, there was a widespread perception internally of a power vacuum.”

(BTW, I LOVED Maggie. She made me feel good after my loss. “You were the only one to get Final Jeopardy correct!”)

Heir apparent

A bunch of paragraphs from The Ringer on how Richards undercut Ken Jennings:

Sources close to the show cast doubts on Richards’s decision-making surrounding Jennings. Many Jeopardy! staffers and former contestants long presumed that Jennings would be Trebek’s anointed successor, an expectation that only grew in the months after Trebek’s 2019 cancer diagnosis.

After Jennings won 2020’s Greatest of All Time tournament, Friedman hired him as a consulting producer—a move from contestant to staff that some interpreted as a bridge to hosting, with Jennings’s early duties including presenting categories of his own creation. Trebek furthered this perception, asking Jennings to narrate much of his 2020 memoir, The Answer Is …, and arranging a call with him to discuss guest-hosting just two days before Trebek’s death.

As The New York Times reported, the host left Jennings a pair of his cuff links, which awaited him in Trebek’s dressing room, along with a note from Trebek’s wife, Jean, when Jennings arrived at the studio to serve as the season’s inaugural guest host.

Jennings taped six weeks of episodes before a minor conflict with an upcoming tape day emerged… Sources say the show’s production staff was able to accommodate the conflict, only for Richards to step in and insist on hosting instead. When the time came to tape the preamble to his first episode, Richards blamed COVID-19 for the change and exaggerated the nature of Jennings’s conflict.

Mike to the rescue?

After Jennings’s curtailed run, which posted the highest ratings of any guest host this season, Jeopardy! did not air any additional [clue] categories hosted by [Ken]. Previously, the categories had aired roughly once a month, about as often as those hosted by members of the Clue Crew. Categories featuring clues read by the Clue Crew, celebrities, and affiliate station news anchors continued to air…

After Richards was named the executive producer of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune in 2019, another former Let’s Make A Deal employee remembers a supervisor who had worked closely with Richards remarking, “I bet he hires himself.”

“I think that one reason why Jeopardy was aspirational for many of its contestants was its sense of integrity,” says Kristin Sausville, who won five games on Jeopardy! in 2015. ‘There was something intrinsic to the show and Alex Trebek’s hosting of it that elevated it above other game shows.

“‘The baggage Mike Richards has brought from his previous experience as an executive producer, as well as the optics of what comes across as his self-selection as host, have tarnished that. I think there’s a real danger of Jeopardy! becoming just another syndicated game show, and that makes me concerned for its longevity and standing.”

Out goes he

I’ve been in touch with other Jeopardy contestants. A few noted a decline in the quality of the clue-writing under his tenure. “It has long been more than clear that Richards’s focus has not been on the good of the show.Most [contestants] don’t understand how he can stay on, as he was the guy in charge of this whole guest host year of distraction in the first place.”

As a columnist noted, it makes “one wonder why the Jeopardy team didn’t perform much due diligence on Richards. Oh, wait … I forgot who was put in charge of it.” And, presumably, Richards will be choosing his own successor as host.

This is why I think that the self-aggrandizing Mike Richards, milkshake duck, should be fired as Executive Producer of JEOPARDY!

JEOPARDY hosts Mike Richards, Mayim Bialik

How to say “Correct” in different ways

Mike Richards Mayim Bialik JeopardyI’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.

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