Mike Richards Next Jeopardy Host?

A guy I've never heard of is apparently replacing the legendary Alex Trebek.

A bevy of celebrities ranging from Aaron Rodgers to Ken Jennings to LeVar Burton have auditioned to be the new permanent host of the long-running game show Jeopardy! The winner reportedly is a guy none of us have heard of with a long behind-the-scenes history.

Variety (“Mike Richards in Advanced Negotiations to Become Permanent Host of ‘Jeopardy!’ (EXCLUSIVE)“):

“Jeopardy!” executive producer Mike Richards is in advanced negotiations with Sony Pictures Television to become permanent host of the venerable quiz show, taking the reins of the syndicated powerhouse that was fronted by Alex Trebek for 36 years.

After Trebek’s death at the age of 80 in November 2020, Sony initiated a series of guest hosts, some of whom were hoping to land the permanent slot. Richards, who joined the show just last year as executive producer, impressed Sony Pictures brass with his command of the fast-paced game and easy on-air manner.

A Sony Pictures spokesman said discussions were ongoing with several potential candidates. He would not comment specifically on Richards’ status. A source close to the situation cautioned that there’s no certainty that the sides will close a deal and that other candidates remain in the mix, although Richards is clearly the front-runner.

[…]

Other guest hosts that have fronted the show since the final Trebek episodes aired in January include Mayim Bialik, Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, Bill Whitaker, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Ken Jennings, George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts, LeVar Burton, Savannah Guthrie, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Aaron Rodgers and former contestant Buzzy Cohen.

Former contestant Jennings was long seen as the front-runner to succeed Trebek. Jennings holds the record for the most consecutive “Jeopardy” wins with his 74-game streak from 2004. He also ranks as the show’s highest-grossing winner with $2.52 million in regular-play winnings (which doesn’t include later tournaments).

“Jeopardy!” is one of the few remaining powerhouse syndicated series that ranks as television institution, in large part thanks to the enduring popularity of Trebek. The competition to replace Trebek was fierce. It’s understood that Bialik and Cohen were among the standouts who have also been strongly considered for the permanent job.

While I was a devoted viewer for many years, it’s been a couple of decades now since I’ve watched the show other than when it happened to be on at someone else’s house. I haven’t watched any of the post-Trebek tryouts. I don’t even know if Richards was among the guest hosts. But I must admit it seems odd to get the audience rooting for a favorite celebrity—Burton in particular has been in front of the American public longer even than Trebek–and then go with a no-name.

Indeed, going with the executive producer of the show after an exhaustive search reminds me of the 2000 presidential election, in which Dick Cheney was put in charge of choosing George W. Bush’s running mate and reluctantly came to the conclusion that Dick Cheney was the best choice.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    My first thought on hearing this was that it was very bold of them to choose the Kramer guy.

    6
  2. MarkedMan says:

    I wonder if finances played into this. My understanding is that Trebek had an ownership stake in the show which was worth a fortune. Maybe with an employee assuming the reins they won’t have to give away much equity?

    1
  3. Rick Almeida says:

    He was the second (I think, maybe third) guest host back in the spring. I thought he started out a little slow and stiff, but by the end of his two weeks I really liked him. He’s warm and genuine, really seemed to connect with the contestants, and hosted the game very effectively. My mom, another regular watcher, thought he was just ok.

    Mayim Bialik would be my first choice, but he probably would have been my second. I’ve been in the contestant pool a couple of times, and I could definitely see him as the host for the next 20-30 years.

    6
  4. I thought he was fabulous during his stint as guest host—the best other than Ken Jennings. Agreed that the grew into it.

    2
  5. Joe says:

    @MarkedMan: I know nothing about this, but cannot believe that whoever controls this franchise would have tried to get a host on the cheap. That would be a recipe for planned failure.

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    Jeopardy is fine, but real quizzers watch Only Connect.

    3
  7. Kathy says:

    You’d think this days this choice was workshopped and focus-grouped exhaustively.

    How well-known was Trebek when he started in Jeopardy!?

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I don’t watch, so I don’t really care.
    I will just say that anyone who ever replaces a longtime favorite does not last. They are always transitional. Sort of like a transitional girlfriend/boyfriend.
    So…good luck, sir.

    1
  9. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Well, Jay Leno replaced Johnny Carson and lasted from 1992 to 2014, which is a good run.

  10. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Jeopardy is fine, but real quizzers watch Only Connect.”

    I don’t know what’s more astonishing about that show — the puzzles or the fact that some contestants are able to solve them!

    1
  11. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:
    Rare…and IIRC Leno subbed for Carson often, so wasn’t exactly new.

  12. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Jeopardy is fine, but real quizzers watch Only Connect.

    When the hell is the new series coming out?! I need my Victoria, dammit.

    (and 8 out of 10 Cats, and Would I Lie to You, and QI, and Mock the Week, and…. )

    2
  13. wr says:

    I was going to post my reaction and list my favorites… and then I realized that I constantly complain that the world was a better place when it was possible to have an opinion and simply keep it to oneself rather than needing to find some way to broadcast it to an entire world of people who have no reason to care.

    They made a decision without needing my input. I think the world will keep turning if people on the internet don’t know if I approve or disapprove of it.

    3
  14. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Certainly rare…but not unheard of. 🙂

  15. MarkedMan says:

    @Rick Almeida:

    Mayim Bialik would be my first choice

    Now is not the time to have an anti-vaxer as a host!

    3
  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr:
    My daughter and I have our own set of at-home rules: we get to answer all questions without buzzing, and we get both connecting walls. Also we don’t count questions that are too British. And then sometimes we do as well as the losing team.

    We choose a team to back based entirely on which team presents the best nerd backstories. Bizarre hair is a plus.

    Also Victoria Coren Mitchell is my Kelvin timeline wife. You know, if my wife didn’t exist, and also if David Mitchell, (VCM’s husband) didn’t exist, and if I were younger.

    2
  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    WILTY is flat-out the funniest show on TV. But have you started on Taskmaster? (Not the godawful US version, but the original Brit version.)

  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    Re: Taskmaster, only the Brits would have a premise that involved the host (Greg Davies) regularly abusing and belittling a sidekick (Alex Horne), who is actually the show’s creator, and is literally Davies’ boss. What I love about British humor is that it always punches up, and in this case the punching up is achieved by punching down at a sidekick who is actually, up. That’s some piss-taking jiu jitsu.

    2
  19. DrDaveT says:

    @Kathy:

    How well-known was Trebek when he started in Jeopardy!?

    He was the popular host of a non-intellectual craps-based game show called High Rollers before he was the Jeopardy! host. He was also a smug, smarmy son of a bitch. Apparently this changed after some near-death experiences a decade or two ago, and he was genuinely well-liked when he died, but when I was on the show pre-2000 he was still insufferable.

    2
  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Funny you should ask. Before Jeopardy, the legendary Alex Trebek was someone no one had heard of unless they watched daytime quiz shows. He did stints on several, the only one I remember is High Rollers, but Wikipedia he did 10 or 12 short-lived quiz shows.

    Before Jeopardy, he was hoping to become the next Gene Rayburn. Jeopardy been very good to him (to paraphrase the Garret Morris SNL character).

    2
  21. Kathy says:

    @DrDaveT:
    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I mostly watched Jeopardy! in the 90s, and rather sporadically after that. Trebek never struck me as insufferable.

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: He also did the CTV version of Card Sharks loosely based on illegal casino Black Jack (complete with the requisite stacked deck).

    2
  23. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Kathy:

    I mostly watched Jeopardy! in the 90s, and rather sporadically after that. Trebek never struck me as insufferable.

    You’re confusing the character Alex Trebek with the actor Alex Trebek who played that character on TV.

    3
  24. Stormy Dragon says:

    One thing I read: before becoming EP for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, Mike Richards was the EP for The Price is Rice and apparently he left their under less than optimal circumstances.

  25. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Re: Taskmaster, only the Brits would have a premise that involved the host (Greg Davies) regularly abusing and belittling a sidekick (Alex Horne), who is actually the show’s creator, and is literally Davies’ boss.”

    There’s a little bit of that in Pointless, in which the sidekick and frequent butt of jokes Richard is also the creator and executive producer…

    1
  26. wr says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: “Funny you should ask. Before Jeopardy, the legendary Alex Trebek was someone no one had heard of unless they watched daytime quiz shows.”

    I believe he was quite well known in his native Canada. Early SCTV used to go after him all the time…

  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: In that case, glad to see that he landed on his feet.

  28. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    If the accusations were true, you should not be.

  29. Kathy says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Ok, that’s fair. But that was the only Trebek I ever saw.

  30. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Kathy:

    That’s the problem with parasocial relationships =)

  31. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Thank you (or curse you – I’m not sure yet) for introducing me to Only Connect. I had something more productive planned for the 3 hours of binging that show I did today, but there’s no going back now.

    The show is providing a very similar experience to the one I have when solving the British style cryptic crosswords. You are completely dumbfounded, then you see that one thing that leads you to the answer and invariably let out a gasp of surprise & discovery. Very gratifying.

    1
  32. de stijl says:

    @Scott F.:

    Cryptic crossword word puzzles annoy the crap out of me until I crack the clue. Then it’s obvious. Then I love them.

    I am aging into Penny Press puzzle books. I love the Variety books. Just this year I had an Ani DeFranco, Elvis Costello, and a cryptic clue that seemed like it wanted Rotten as the answer but was actually Lydon. A cleverly constructed clue.

    I am bold. I use a pen.