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Big Fizzle

by on August 22, 2021

We all knew that when Alex Trebek died that Jeopardy would try to find a host to replace him. I thought the idea of bringing back Watson – or perhaps an IA with Alex’s voice – would be an interesting idea. Instead, Jeopardy went with the more realistic option of having a litany of guest hosts through the end of the season (which has recently ended).

Most of the hosts introduced themselves as long-time lovers of Jeopardy – which really doesn’t make sense, because that qualifies millions of people in the U.S. to host the show. In reality, most of the guest hosts had were tv personalities and had a job, so it was assumed that most of them were their to toot their own horn.

There were a few hosts that weren’t tv personalities: Ken Jennings, holder of the most wins in Jeopardy history and a champion of several Jeopardy tournaments; Buzzy Cohen, who won several times on Jeopardy, and one Jeopardy’s tournament of champions (as a guest host he hosted the tournament of champions); Aaron Rogers, a football player; Mayim Bialek, an actress on the “Big Bang” and an academic; and Levar Burton, an actor and a host of the long-running show Reading Rainbow which taught kids to read.

Jeopardy assured people that public opinion would be taken into consideration in choosing a guest host. Nonetheless, Levar Burton was only considered as a guest host after a massive online petition called for him to host the show – he was given a one week stint late in the season, compared to the two weeks that most guest hosts appeared. If you have followed Jeopardy on Facebook or Twitter in the last several months you’ll find a lot of wishy-washy people who things like “I like x and y, by w and g are my favorite. But r is still the best!”. Aaron Rogers, being known to many in the sports world, had a exceedingly large backing online. Mike Richards, who theoretically was not in the running to permanently host the show, also got a strangely large backing. It looked like a combination of a robot farm and a high school popularity contest, rather than basing anything on merit.

Ken Jennings, in his many appearances on Jeopardy through the years became the second face of Jeopardy after Trebek. He was the the first guest host – for several weeks. Jennings was the only person who thanked Alex Trebek through each of his several guest host appearances; most of the guest hosts thanked Trebek with a brief acknowledgement on their first day.

Understandably, after Jennings finished his time as a guest host the next person to host the show was Jeopardy’s executive producer, Mike Richards. The world was, as a it still is, in the middle of a pandemic, and guest hosts were not ready to travel to Los Angeles. No one assumed that Mike Richards – an executive producer – was there to do much more than fill in a guest host.

In July, once all the guest hosts had finished filming for the season, and most of the shows had aired, news leaked that Jeopardy was considering Mike Richards as the permanent host. As the executive producer ,and for all appearances, the guy in charge of picking the next host, it appeared that after all the charades Mike Richards was picking Mike Richards to host Jeopardy. There are other Sony executives involved in the decision, but appearances are appearances.

Shortly after this, it was confirmed that Mike Richards would be the permanent host of Jeopardy and that Mayim Bialek would be a co-host. In essence, Bialek was thrown the bone of “you can host the Jeopardy college championships and other spin-offs” to make it look like Jeopardy was joining the world of diversity.

Mike Richards wasn’t guest hosting Jeopardy as a tv personality and he wasn’t well-known for a particular political stance. He was likeable and boring, but at least unlike so many guest hosts I don’t recall him trying to relate to each clue with phrases like “that’s my neck of the woods”, “I love that pie!” or some other unnecessary comment. We all know Alex Trebek was from Canada, but how many times did he mention it?

The choice to make an executive producer a game show host turned out to be a laughingly bad decision. The Sony executives that chose Mike Richards – an executive – to host the show probably knew he had a past. The Sony executives, however, were apparently surprised to learn that in the last several years it appears he’s ‘repeatedly used offensive language and disparaged women’s bodies‘ and made jokes about Jewish and Asian people. Within a few days of being announced as the new co-host, Mike Richards announced he was resigning as a host – but likely will remain an executive producer.

Jeopardy hired two hosts. Mayim Bialek was announced as host , and it seemed clear that she would host the college tournament and other Jeopardy spin-offs. With the resignation of Mike Richards, Jeopardy will continue to search for a permanent host and continue the parade of guest hosts. I’ve seen no article about how this affects Bialek’s partial hire.

I’ve been watching Jeopardy for years, and looked forward to switching the channel to watch Jeopardy at 7:30. Then came a technology where I could record Jeopardy and watch it later, if I wanted to. The recording has been turned off. I’m not inclined to watch Jeopardy and I’m not interested in a Jeopardy that is about the hosts. Jeopardy has not only lost me, but if the internet is a gauge it has lost a large swath of viewership.

This isn’t to say I’ll never watch Jeopardy again. This week Jeopardy is airing re-runs of Alex Trebek. I hope all the guest hosts, and whoever the permanent host will be, is watching and noticing he does such a good job that you barely notice he’s there. I hope Jeopardy will do it right this time and pick a host that can be the face of Jeopardy, who at the same time will make the game show dedicated to knowledge about the contestants.

From → Entertainment

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