Despite stepping down as host of Jeopardy!, Mike Richards vowed to stay on as executive producer of the show. However, that also isn’t going well, according to new reports coming from the beloved game show.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Jeopardy! staff and crew are divided behind the scenes. Many longtime staffers were already unhappy with Richards’ “sharp elbows” style of producing. Sony named Richards as executive producer last year, and he did guide the show through the COVID-19. But the botched replacement of Alex Trebek, and Richards inserting himself into the process, have upset many of the show’s staff.
Mike Richards apologized to the show’s staff in a Zoom call after The Ringer reported he had made several controversial and mean comments on his Randumb podcast. He said he would work to earn back their trust.
But many staffers had already lost respect for him before the report. Claire McNear, who wrote The Ringer story, told the New York Times that she started receiving calls from Jeopardy! insiders who were not happy with Richards earlier this summer. People at the show said “the host-search process might not have been as aboveboard as the way that it was being described publicly, and a number of staff members had fairly grave concerns about (Richards).”
Those calls spurred her to look into Richards’ background, she said.
McNear told CNN that Sony executives worry the future of Jeopardy! is in — well — jeopardy. Alex Trebek guided the show for 37 years, but in the 10 months since his death, the show has struggled to stay consistent.
“I think there’s a lot of concern,” McNear said. “Especially within Sony and within the Jeopardy! staff, that this reliable thing might not be what it was and it could just become another game show.”
Sony Hires Overseer to Watch ‘Jeopardy’ Producer
To mitigate some of the damage Richards’ scandal has brought to Jeopardy! Sony asked legal affairs vice president Suzanne Prete to oversee the show, the New York Times said. The newspaper reported Prete would take more of an active presence on the creative direction and strategy” of the show.
Sony had already asked Prete to walk Richards through sensitivity training.
Though, some have speculated Sony is merely going through the motions until the company can find a replacement for Richards and negotiate his exit. However, the executive producer has hired a lawyer to protect him in case the company attempts to oust him from his position at Jeopardy! Outwardly, the company has praised Richards for his stepping down as host to avoid hurting the brand.
Mayim Bialik, who Sony hired to host primetime episodes of Jeopardy! and any spinoffs, will replace Richards as host until the company chooses a full-time replacement.