‘Jeopardy!’: Executive Producer Mike Richards Relying on ‘Gut Instinct’ to Name Alex Trebek Replacement

by Thad Mitchell

Gameshow “Jeopardy!” continues to press forward in spite of not having a full-time host in place for the first time since 1984.

That is the year that Alex Trebek first stepped behind the now-iconic “Jeopardy!” host’s lectern. For 37 years, Alex Trebek greeted television watchers before overseeing a game of intellectual competition. A true professional, Trebek’s smooth delivery and subtle charm made him a household name and one of the highest-paid television hosts ever.

The longtime host passed away at age of 80 last November after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Since his passing, “Jeopardy!” has been utilizing celebrities as guest hosts to keep the show going. Big names like Ken Jennings, Aaron Rogers and Mayim Bialik have all taken a turn behind the “Jeopardy!” podium. On Monday, journalist and television personality Savannah Guthrie will begin her two-week hosting tenure.

Still to come are more big names like Joe Buck, Robin Roberts and LeVar Burton. Each guest host has done a commendable job to this point. But, sooner or later, “Jeopardy!” will have to choose a new permanent host to replace Alex Trebek.

‘Jeopardy!’ Continues Search for New Host

That weight will fall on the shoulders of “Jeopardy!” executive producer Mike Richards and he knows it won’t be an easy task. In a recent interview, Richards says he will rely on his team and gut instinct in making the choice.

“We the most robust team of people I have ever seen looking at this and analyzing it in a very cerebral way,” he says to the Associated Press. “It’s a real change from the way casting has traditionally been done on television. It’s usually been a gut instinct of the head executive: ‘How about that person?'”

Richards was actually the second person to serve as “Jeopardy!” guest host after Trebek’s passing. He followed former contestant and “Jeopardy!” fan-favorite Ken Jennings and did quite well. His two-week hosting tenure drew the second-highest Nielsen Rating score of all the guest host’s who have completed their terms. Scoring a 5.9 on the Nielsen scale, only Jennings has a higher score than him at 6.0.

Richards says his hope is that whoever is chosen as the next “Jeopardy!” host is given a fair shot by the public.

“My hope is that whoever is chosen will be given a chance to prove why they were chosen, without too much static,” he says. “Ultimately, we are trying to put out the best product for our fans. That tends to narrow your focus to a pretty nice North Star, as opposed to, ‘What’s the internet going to say?’”

There is still no official timeline on when a new “Jeopardy!” host will be selected but it is likely sometime this year. Whoever, it is will certainly have the very large shoes of the great Alex Trebek to fill.