There have been a lot of changes happening at Jeopardy! recently. After a series of celebrity guests hosted the show for the last several months following the death of longtime host Alex Trebek, executive producer Mike Richards was named the new Jeopardy! host in mid-August. But, after two scandals emerged about his past comments and behavior, Richards stepped down from his new gig before his first episodes even aired. Now, the search is on for another new host.
But that doesn’t meant Jeopardy! fans are satisfied with the outcome of this gameshow drama. Read on to find out why Jeopardy! is still in hot water with some viewers.
The scandals involving Mike Richards included lawsuits and offensive comments.
After it was reported that Richards was likely to be the new host of Jeopardy! earlier this month, lawsuits from his time as an executive producer on The Price Is Right resurfaced. Models who worked on the show had filed lawsuits alleging discrimination while Richards was at the helm, from 2008 to 2019. In an internal memo at Jeopardy!, Richards said of the past lawsuits (via CNN), “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 or how we worked together on The Price Is Right.”
On top of that, Richards was also called out for making offensive comments while hosting his podcast, The Randumb Show, in 2013 and 2014. The comments included sexist remarks about women, and offensive words about Jewish people, Haitian people, and unhoused people. Richards apologized in a statement to The Ringer, which unearthed the podcast episodes, and said the comments are “a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago.”
Soon, Richards announced he was stepping down as Jeopardy! host, but he is still an executive producer.
On Aug. 20, Richards sent an internal note to Jeopardy! staff that was also released to the press. In the memo, he explained that he wouldn’t be continuing as the show’s new host. “As I mentioned last week, I was deeply honored to be asked to host the syndicated show and was thrilled by the opportunity to expand my role,” he wrote. “However, over the last several days it has become clear that moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show. As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately.”
Even though he stepped down as the host, Richards still has his job as executive producer of Jeopardy! as well as of Wheel of Fortune, two positions that he took on last year.
On Aug. 23, Newsweek reported that fans were calling for Richards to no longer be executive producer, either. Andy Saunders, who runs the website The Jeopardy Fan, tweeted, “From this fan’s perspective, Mike Richards did a terrible job as EP. There were a number of mistakes last season where many were left wondering ‘how on earth did that actually get aired?'” TV critic Mo Ryan tweeted, “After all this, Mike Richards will continue to make a lot of money from working on Jeopardy!, he will continue to shape and influence the work environment, and he will continue to influence if not direct the selection of the next host.” Taking a more humorous approach, actor Josh Malina wrote: “Mike Richards should be removed as an Exec Producer of Jeopardy! simply for not realizing what an inappropriate choice Mike Richards would be as host. He must have known what Mike Richards had said on that podcast.”
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It was announced that Richards will be doing “sensitivity training” after fans voiced their concerns.
On Aug. 26, a spokesperson for Richards told Today that he will remain with the show as executive producer and undergo “sensitivity training.”
As reported by Today, Sony Pictures Television also confirmed that Richards will be keeping his job and said in a statement, “We support Mike’s decision to step down as host. We were surprised this week to learn of Mike’s 2013/2014 podcast and the offensive language he used in the past. We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward.”
Mayim Bialik, whose past has also been called into question, will take over for Richards for now.
When Season 38 of Jeopardy! premieres in September, the few episodes that Richards did film before stepping down as host will air. Then, actor Mayim Bialik will guest host the show after previously guest hosting the show in June. She had already been hired to host Jeopardy! specials and spinoffs, an announcement that came in mid-August when it was revealed that Richards would be the primetime host. (In the weeks since, Bialik has faced some backlash of her own for her earlier stance on vaccines and comments about victims of sexual assault.)
After Bialik’s primetime run, a series of guest hosts, who have not yet been announced, will join the show while Jeopardy! once again searches for a permanent replacement for Trebek.
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