Mike Richards out as Executive Producer of 'Jeopardy!'

Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File

Is there still a chance for LeVar Burton to take over as the permanent host of Jeopardy!? His chances look better today than yesterday. In fact, that could be said of any of the contenders who tried out to fill the role of host since the death of the show’s legendary host, Alex Trebek. Burton was one of the viewers’ favorites. Mike Richards not only isn’t going to get the gig, but he’s also now fired from his position of executive producer of the game show.

Three weeks ago, after an extensive search for a permanent replacement for Trebek, Richards chose himself as the show host. He pulled a Dick Cheney-style move. Viewers were told that many people were considered for the role and a steady stream of celebrities from the world of sports and television were given a shot to play host. Most were allowed to host for two weeks and proceeds each week went to a charity of that week’s host’s choice. Sony announced the selection of Richards, who tried out like the rest of the contenders, as well as that of actress Mayim Bialik to host primetime specials. The announcement was on August 11.

While the selection of Bialik was mostly favorably accepted, the choice of Richards was not. He was essentially unknown to viewers before he turned up to host and while he did an ok job, he wasn’t a fan favorite. LeVar Burton, however, has a strong fan base on social media. They quickly came forward and voiced their criticism of Richards. The next thing we knew, there were accusations of some bad behavior in his past that came back to haunt him. This is 2021 and that’s how this works now. No one escapes the angry mob once it sets you in its sights. By August 20, Richards took himself out of the host role. He remained executive producer, though.

Richards was the host of The Price is Right prior to becoming the executive producer for Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, as he is now. Crew members confronted Mr. Richards on Aug. 19, telling him that he was harming the show’s reputation with the news of his past behavior.

Sony’s leadership was also facing scrutiny for the mess. “Jeopardy!” had been a reliable jewel in the studio’s television portfolio, quietly earning tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue. But its messy succession drama roiled fans and raised questions about why Sony had not discovered Mr. Richards’s past offensive behavior before naming him as the new host.

The report in The Ringer revealed offensive comments Mr. Richards made on a podcast, including a 2013 episode where Mr. Richards called his female co-host a “booth slut” because she once worked as a model at a consumer show in Las Vegas. He described women who wear one-piece swimsuits as looking “really frumpy and overweight” and referred to stereotypes about Jews and large noses, prompting outrage from the Anti-Defamation League.

Sony thought it would be off the hook by saying Richards was out as host. The company announced that Bialik would tape three weeks of shows to begin the new season. Viewers have grown tired of the selection process. Richards taped one week’s worth of shows in a single day of filming before Sony announced his departure as host. Those episodes will air the week of September 13.

Why not just make Mayim Bialik the permanent host, now that Richards is out? It seems like an insult to her that she was given a smaller role and now isn’t being named as the regular host. She did well as host, though she did occasionally remind the contestants that she’s an actual brainiac, a neuroscientist.

Anyway, who knows? Maybe LeVar Burton’s fans will put him over the top to be the next host. He showed a good rapport with contestants and was an enthusiastic host. Who doesn’t like Geordi? It is reported that he was never really considered for the permanent role, though. Sony executives didn’t think he was the right fit. Perhaps they should listen to the fans a little more.

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022