In normal times, Jeopardy! is a sleepy stalwart of network TV. It's comfort viewing for smarty-pants types, devoid of drama outside its contestants' mad dash to buzz in and answer a query in question form. The surprise appointment of Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards as late-host Alex Trebek's replacement changed that. Suddenly, the beloved game show was at the center of a maelstrom of scandal and outrage.
First, there was shock that a virtually unknown figure would be taking Trebek's place, when fan favorites like Ken Jennings and LeVar Burton were right there. Then there was the suspicion that Richards had a lot to do with his own appointment, since as Jeopardy!'s relatively new EP, he'd been tasked with finding Trebek's replacement in the first place. He was sued for pregnancy discrimination during his tenure at The Price Is Right, which Sony evidently overlooked. Finally, there was anger when audio surfaced of him spouting cruel and disparaging views about women, the Jewish faith, poor folks and disabled people on his podcast.
Richards may have had a hand in appointing himself to his dream job, but his own stupidity felled him even faster. Just nine days after being named the new face of Jeopardy!, he was forced to resign. Richards stayed on as EP, however, raising questions about how that'd work, exactly. But now fans don't have to worry about him tainting their beloved show. As of Tuesday, Richards is out as executive producer of both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune — and this time, instead of voluntarily stepping down, he was fired, according to Variety. Good riddance!
Sony Pictures Television executive Suzanne Prete expanded on the circumstances that led to Richards' ouster: "We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened," she wrote in a message to the show's crew. Prete added that she'll be more hands-on with the day-to-day production Jeopardy! and Wheel going forward, assisted by Michael Davies from Embassy Row on an interim basis.
Meanwhile, Jeopardy! is airing reruns through September 10 at least. It's the recent "Tournament of Champions" that aired in May, featuring 2017 tournament winner Buzzy Cohen as host. When new episodes return, Mayim Bialik will fill in as weeknight guest host. (She was previously hired to helm Jeopardy!'s primetime specials.) However, Sony evidently isn't amazing at thoroughly vetting its talent. In recent weeks, Bialik's dubious views on scientific issues like vaccines, C-sections and birth control as well as her misguided critique of Harvey Weinstein's victims has come back to haunt her.
Will Jeopardy! eventually right the ship and go back to being a boring-yet-beloved TV staple? Is anyone really qualified to replace Trebek? In a few weeks, will they appoint yet another bland white guy to run things, disappointing us all over again? We'll have to wait and see, but it's hard to imagine Jeopardy! getting away unscathed from the repeated fumbles in this whole saga.