Since “Jeopardy!” announced last week that executive producer Mike Richards will be the permanent host for the game show, many have been up in arms about the appointment being an “inside job.”
As executive producer, Richards did initially start the search for a new host after the death of 37-year host Alex Trebek. But in a memo to “Jeopardy!” staff on Aug. 9, Richards assured them that “the choice on this is not my decision and never has been.”
The New York Times even corroborated this statement. Sony Pictures Television told the outlet that Richards “moved aside” on the hunt for a new host after he got in the running for the job. He participated as one of 16 guest hosts on this past season of the show, alongside Ken Jennings, Aaron Rodgers, LeVar Burton, Mayim Bialik, and others. The game show implied that the new permanent host would be selected from among those who guest hosted.
On Aug. 11, Sony confirmed that Richards would host the daily syndicated shows while Bialik would handle primetime specials and spin-off series. Sony TV chairman Ravi Ahuja said in a statement that the two “were both at the top of our research and analysis.”
And yet, according to that same New York Times article, Richards himself selected the episodes that Sony focus groups would review for analysis. The Ringer reported that four-decade “Jeopardy!” veteran showrunners Lisa Broffman and Rocky Schmidt “were excluded” from the decision. Neither Sony nor Richards commented on the focus groups for The Ringer.
How Did Mike Richards Influence This Past Season of ‘Jeopardy!’?
The Ringer also spoke to some sources (kept anonymous by the outlet for fear of retaliation) close to “Jeopardy!” and Sony. One Sony employee who was close to the host search said Mike Richards directly coached the new guest hosts.
“He was the one rehearsing and giving direction to all the guest hosts, who may not have realized they were competing with him for the job,” the source said. “It’s not hard to see the structural advantages that such a candidate would have. Would he vigorously advocate for the strongest guest hosts, as an EP normally would in that situation?”
The source also said, “[Richards] could influence the promotion of those shows and the respective guest hosts. He had personal relationships with the executives involved, who had entrusted the show to him a year before.” Richards became the executive producer of “Jeopardy!” last year, just months before Alex Trebek passed away.
Even “Jeopardy!” staff were “blindsided” by Richards’ appointment. The Ringer reported that “staff morale has deteriorated under Richards’s watch” as executive producer. Former co-workers also understood that Richards “wasn’t shy about wanting to move in front of the camera” on “The Price is Right.”
Learn more about Richards’ appointment and the controversy surrounding it here.