‘Jeopardy!’: Mike Richards Reportedly Had Ken Jennings Ushered Out on First & Only Day of Filming as New Host

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Ben Hider/Getty Images

The more information that comes to light behind the scenes of “Jeopardy!” lately, the more it feels like late host Alex Trebek would be disappointed. These days, there’s more drama happening off-camera than the trivia on-stage.

For months, viewers wondered who would replace Trebek in the coveted hosting role. But very few people saw things going down like this. Recently-announced host Mike Richards is out and the search for a host continues. But during his short-lived run, Richards reportedly got on Ken Jennings‘ bad side.

Jennings stopped by to watch “Jeopardy!” on Richards’ first day of filming. In fact, Sony invited both Jennings and former champ Buzzy Cohen. The game show held a special ceremony where they renamed the studio after Alex Trebek. Both Jennings and Cohen showed up for the ceremony and planned to stick around to watch Richards in the role.

But according to the New York Times, Richards vetoed having Jennings and Cohen at the studio. In fact, he demanded that they leave. Both former “Jeopardy!” champs ended up having to watch the taping in an isolated green room on a monitor. Richards reportedly had the two escorted from the stage.

Richards told staff members that he felt too nervous with Jennings and Cohen in the crowd. Inside sources told the Times he asked for their removal before the taping. Both Jennings and Cohen are “Jeopardy!” legends in their own right. They also previously guest-hosted this year and were in consideration for the permanent hosting gig.

‘Jeopardy!’ Loses Mike Richards

An insider compared the situation to “inviting Joe DiMaggio back to Yankee Stadium and then not letting him in the dugout.” Apparently, Richards insulting Jennings and Cohen rubbed many the wrong way. Some speculated it played a factor in Richards’ dismissal less than a day later.

It’s certainly not a good look for the “Jeopardy!” executive producer turned momentary host. Past comments came back to haunt Richards and ultimately cost him the job. Reportedly, Richards made controversial jokes while hosting his podcast.

Additionally, some fans even alleged that Richards possibly rigged the situation to ultimately land the hosting gig. It’s certainly unclear whether that’s true or not. But public perception can make or break a show. Just ask Ellen DeGeneres. Insiders reported that Richards wasn’t even supposed to guest host on “Jeopardy!” at all. Jennings kicked off the guest-hosting stint with six weeks on the show.

He had a minor scheduling conflict that the show worked to remedy. But Richards reportedly used that opportunity to carve time for his own guest-hosting ambitions. Since then, several “Jeopardy!” champs have called out the producer. Jennings appears saddened by all the drama. “It’s one of the last pure things in a troubled age. And I hate that something pure like that has to be sullied by backstage drama.”