This week, the biggest Jeopardy! question by far isn’t on the show but rather behind the scenes; it’s what is going to happen to the beloved institution that, for many, has become part of daily life.
The usually reliable TV staple has been shaken as it selects a permanent replacement for beloved host Alex Trebek, who died of pancreatic cancer in November after having hosted the quiz show since 1984. Months of on-air auditions from TV personalities and journalists, including Jeopardy! champs Ken Jennings and Buzzy Cohen, journalists Robin Roberts, Anderson Cooper and Savannah Guthrie and many others culminated earlier this month in the announcement that Mike Richards, the show’s executive producer, had landed the gig. However, he stepped down just more than a week later, after offensive comments he had made in the past and a lawsuit over alleged inappropriate behavior while overseeing The Price Is Right came to light.
Here’s a recap of where we are right now:
Richards has agreed to undergo sensitivity training.
As the whole scandal has played out, Richards is very much still a part of Jeopardy! in the role of the show’s executive producer. The New York Times reported Wednesday that he’s on the set this week, as Mayim Bialik, who had been chosen to host Jeopardy! specials in primetime, temporarily takes the podium for the weekday edition.
A source close to the show tells Yahoo Entertainment that, off camera, Richards has agreed to undergo sensitivity training.
According to the newspaper, Richards apologized to his co-workers on a Monday call, on which he was defended by Ravi Ahuja, Sony’s top TV honcho.
Bialik’s availability to host is still up in the air.
It remains unclear whether Bialik, the Big Bang Theory actress and a trained neuroscientist, is even an option to regularly deliver the clues on the Sony lot in Culver City, Calif., where the show tapes. After all, she’s under contract to make her Fox sitcom, Call Me Kat, which is expected to return with a second season early next year.
Bialik was the “top choice” to be permanent host anyway, according to the Hollywood Reporter. But she was unavailable, because she had already committed to the show before Jeopardy! was ready to negotiate. However, a source told Yahoo Entertainment that Bialik is still interested in the job, especially if she can adjust her schedule in future seasons. “There’s definitely more than guest hosting that could potentially happen here,” the source said.
Reportedly, LeVar Burton was not even a finalist.
While the Star Trek and Roots actor was a fan favorite, Sony executives never thought he was “the right fit” for the full-time job, according to TMZ; Bialik and Richards were the only two candidates who had talks with the network.
And while LeVar Burton was outspoken about wanting to host — he said he would’ve regretted not speaking up — he’s apparently OK with the result: conversations with others about potential projects.
Jeopardy! faves Buzzy Cohen and Ken Jennings were kept out of Richards’s first tapings.
It turns out that Richards’s tenure as host started off awkwardly anyway. When Jeopardy! royalty Cohen and Jennings — both had phenomenal runs on the show and the latter owns the title of the game’s Greatest of All Time — arrived to watch Richards’s first taping, they were sent to a green room near the soundstage.
“They were told that Mr. Richards was too nervous to have them in the studio, according to three people familiar with the incident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” according to the New York Times. “One of the people likened it to inviting Joe DiMaggio back to Yankee Stadium and then not letting him in the dugout.”
The studio blamed COVID-19 protocols.
Speaking of Jennings, a former THR writer said two show insiders told him that the host role is “now Jennings’ job to lose.”
Fans can’t get over the unexpected drama.
It’s a lot for a show known for its consistency: three contestants play a brain game and one of them wins, every single day. Many viewers took to social media to joke about its messy current state of affairs.