Mike Richards, the new “Jeopardy! »Host, left

The first and, as it turned out, the last day of filming for Mike Richards as the host of “Jeopardy!” began with a rally that longtime ...


The first and, as it turned out, the last day of filming for Mike Richards as the host of “Jeopardy!” began with a rally that longtime quiz leaders hoped would symbolize a fresh start.

During a ceremony recorded Thursday at the Sony Pictures field in Culver City, Calif., Sony revealed that the “Jeopardy!” studio would be renowned for Alex Trebek, the beloved host who passed away last year. Mr. Richards smiled as the cameras rolled and Mr. Trebek’s widow and children watched.

Less than 24 hours later, Mr. Richards had left his hosting concert, “Jeopardy!” production was suspended and fans of the series struggled to understand how a television and staple American salon institution could have botched a succession plan after 37 years of stability and success.

Mr Richards resigned on Friday after revelations of offensive and sexist comments he made on a podcast several years ago, just nine days after Sony announced his new role with great fanfare. He wrote in a memo that “going forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right decision for the show.”

“Jeopardy!”, Which first aired in 1964, is meant to be television’s heartwarming dish, a little glitzy dread of politics and tribulation. The abrupt rise and fall of Mr. Richards plunged the show into the culture wars of 2021, subjecting it to intense debate, especially on social media, on issues of privilege, diversity and culture in the milieu. of work.

“The appeal of the series is its reliability and timelessness,” said Ken Jennings, the former champion and a “Jeopardy! »Consulting producer. “It is one of the last pure things in troubled times. And I hate that something pure like that has to be tainted with backstage drama.

Sony said Mr. Richards will remain an executive producer. But he has to face a “Jeopardy!” Discouraged. Staff whose frustrations erupted in an emotional meeting Thursday, where team members told Mr Richards that his past behavior had put the show’s reputation at risk, according to two people who spoke under on condition of anonymity to describe sensitive internal discussions.

Mr. Richards was already in the face of a fury before this week. As the show’s executive producer, Mr. Richards helped oversee the search for Mr. Trebek’s replacement before Sony chose him among fan favorites like actor LeVar Burton. Old trials had revealed accusations of sexist behavior in his last supervisory position of “The Price Is Right”. (He disputes the claims.)

Until Wednesday, it looked like Mr. Richards and Sony had weathered the storm.

Then a report in The ring, by reporter Claire McNear, revealed a series of offensive comments Mr. Richards made on a podcast he previously aired called “The Randumb Show”. In a 2013 episode, Mr. Richards joked about women who “dress like a whore” on Halloween; in another episode, he called his co-host a “booth bitch” because she once worked as a model at a mainstream show in Las Vegas. He described the women who wear one-piece swimsuits as looking “really cranky and overweight” and referred to stereotypes about Jews and big noses.

Mr. Richards, a comedian turned game show manager, was executive producer of “The Price Is Right” at the time he made the comments, prompting the Anti-Defamation League request an investigation.

“I’m not sure he understands how hurtful and problematic his past behavior was,” league general manager Jonathan Greenblatt said in an interview after Mr. Richards left. “He didn’t apologize for the harm. He just apologized to his colleagues for causing unwanted negative attention and production delays. “

Mr. Richards’ remarks on the podcast also echoed some allegations made against him in the “Price of Right” lawsuit, including allegations that he hesitated when one of the models aired on the show announced that she was pregnant with twins. According to the lawsuit, Mr. Richards put his face in his hands and said, “Twins? Are you serious?”

The matter was finally settled. Mr. Richards said in a report this month that the allegations “don’t reflect the reality of who I am”.

Andy Saunders, who manages the website “The peril! Fan” and is an online voice commentator on the show, said he was surprised Mr. Richards remained the show’s executive producer.

“It feels like he doesn’t quite realize the gravity of his mistake and thinks that if he stays behind the scenes then everything will fall apart,” Saunders said in an interview. He said Sony had made a “serious mistake” in failing to properly control the new host and noted that Mr. Richards’ podcast was posted on the Internet.

“Either they didn’t listen to it or they listened to it and didn’t think it was a problem – which would be major mistakes,” Saunders said.

During the recording Thursday in Culver City, Mr. Richards was accompanied by Anthony Vinciquerra, chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Ravi Ahuja, its chairman of television. Two other candidates for Mr Trebek’s post, former nominees Ken Jennings and Buzzy Cohen, also came, expecting to witness Mr Richards’ first recording.

Instead, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Jennings were escorted from the soundstage to a nearby green room, where they watched the recording on a closed stream. They were told Mr. Richards was too nervous to have them in the studio, according to three people familiar with the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One of the people compared it to inviting Joe DiMaggio back to Yankee Stadium and not letting him into the dugout.

Sony said access to the recording was restricted due to pandemic protocols limiting the number of people in the studio; Mr. Vinciquerra was also not on the soundstage.

The search to replace Mr. Trebek, who hosted the show for 37 years, included a parade of guest guests like Anderson Cooper, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Buck and others. One competitor was virtually unknown to the public: Mr. Richards, who started out as executive producer of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” last year.

Initially, Mr. Richards spoke dispassionately about research, telling the New York Times in January that he wanted the show’s audience to weigh in on the selection and that the new host shouldn’t just make an “impression of Alex.” He didn’t mention he might be in contention as well.

“I think there will be pressure and stress on anyone,” he said of the potential new host.

Sony said Mr. Richards left the selection process after running as a candidate; the final decision was taken by Mr. Vinciquerra, the managing director. But as executive producer, Mr. Richards retained a key role in determining which potential host bands would be screened for the focus groups that Sony was studying closely. Other supervisor “Jeopardy! »The producers were excluded from this process.

The selection of Mr. Richards had sparked particularly fierce objections from a legion of fans lobbying on social media for Mr. Burton, the longtime host of the PBS children’s series “Reading Rainbow.” Mr Burton was a guest host in July and had campaigned for the permanent position, saying he felt like he had prepared his whole life to host “Jeopardy!” and that it would be important for a black person to take the role for the first time. A representative for Mr Burton declined to comment on Friday.

The search for the show will now begin again with another set of guest hosts. Mr. Richards’ week of televising, including five episodes he filmed on Thursday, is scheduled to air the week of September 13. Mayim Bialik, the sitcom star, will continue to host “Jeopardy!” prime-time specials.

Sony said in a statement Friday that it was “surprised” to learn of the offensive comments on Mr. Richards’ podcast, but praised him for running “Jeopardy!” following the death of Mr. Trebek. “We hope that as an executive producer, he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect,” Sony said.

The studio declined to comment beyond its prepared statement.

In his own Friday memo, Mr Richards wrote: “It pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow over ‘Jeopardy!’ as we seek to start a new chapter.

He concluded, “I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your confidence.”

Lauren Herstik contributed reports.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Mike Richards, the new “Jeopardy! »Host, left
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