‘Jeopardy!’ Executive Producer Says Tonight Will Be ‘The Most Emotional Tournament of Champions’ You’ll See

by Jennifer Shea
Greg Doherty/Getty Images

“Jeopardy!” Executive Producer Mike Richards thought it was important to hold the Tournament of Champions this year after everything “Jeopardy!” has been through, from the death of legendary host Alex Trebek to the coronavirus pandemic. And the former “Jeopardy!” guest-host managed to pull it off.

“I was unrelenting in trying to get the Tournament of Champions” on the air, Richards told USA Today this week. “It was only one piece of normalcy that we really wanted to inject into this season.”

“And ultimately,” he added, “as we moved the dates around… we were able to reach out to all the champions and ask, ‘Are you willing to travel?’ And ask ourselves, did we feel like we can comfortably protect them when they came?”

This ‘Jeopardy’ Tournament Of Champions Will Be The ‘Most Emotional’

The Tournament of Champions took place without a studio audience. Producers implemented social distancing rules, forbidding contestants to hug, shake hands or chat close-up. They also tested the contestants for COVID-19.

Because of the difficulty of travel, most of the regular-season contestants during the pandemic have hailed from the Los Angeles area. However, the champions flew in from all over the country.

“Basically, we ended up taking over an entire hotel that had been closed this entire time, and they were the only inhabitants,” Richards says. “That was how intensely we took this process, so it was great to pull off.”

Many of the champions remembered the “Jeopardy!” of Trebek’s era, and even the “Jeopardy!” of pre-pandemic days, Richards said. So they were visibly moved to be back on the show, despite the conditions.

“You could tell from the folks that hadn’t been here in two years, because some of these champions have been around for a really long time,” he added. “At this point, they were so happy to be back. It’s the most emotional Tournament of Champions I think you’ll see.”

Buzzy Cohen Will Host The Tournament

Former “Jeopardy!” champ Buzzy Cohen will forfeit his chance to appear as a contestant again when he takes up guest-hosting duties on the Tournament of Champions this week. But for Cohen, it’s worth it. Hosting the show is a longtime dream.

“For me,” Cohen told USA Today, hosting is “about being reverent to the clues, being reverent to the contestants. I think that what Alex was good at, and what I really tried to embody, was when there are moments where you can bring levity, I do it. But certainly, there’s Buzzy as a contestant and Buzzy as a host: It’s a different role, and there’s a different responsibility.”

Cohen is among the guest-hosts who have thrown their hats into the ring for the permanent hosting job. He says he’d love to be part of a show that he’s watched since childhood and that has become a huge part of his identity. But Cohen has plenty of competition.

“I think people will be surprised at how he takes it pretty seriously,” Richards said. “He really delivers as a host.”