Thursday’s episode of “Today, Explained” covers the recent scandal rocking the once infallible gameshow. We are sure you’ve heard of the seemingly endless search for Jeopardy!’s new host. Since Alex Trebek’s passing in November 2020, the show has been becoming more and more frantic to find a suitable replacement. On August 11, after a summer of guest hosts and what was seemingly their auditions to step into Trebek’s role, a relatively unknown Mike Richards was announced as the new host.
Eventually, the news made the rounds that not only was he the new host, but he was also an executive producer of the show, and had been since 2019. “Today, Explained” was joined by Claire McNear at the Ringer, who changed the trajectory of the search with her article published Wednesday, August 18.
They begin by talking about Trebek’s final years. When he announced his stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March of 2019, Jeopardy! underwent a lot of behind-the-scenes change. He entered Sony around 2019 when Harry Friedman, the long-time executive producer of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, stepped down, naming Richards his successor. More higher-ups behind the show who had been spearheading the campaign to find Trebek’s replacement all stepped down, and there was a large power vacuum on the show.
The search begins again
After Trebek died, the search began again, this time led by Richards who had already expressed his interest in returning to the other side of the camera. While a number of celebrities and news anchors took their shot at the role, from Aaron Rodgers to Katie Couric to LeVar Burton, Richards was in their ear the entire time. He was calling the shots, looking at the data, configuring the show to make him the next host.
People were outraged when Burton, a favorite to replace Trebek, only received one week of shows, as opposed to the two everyone else was granted. Not only that, but his episodes premiered during the Summer Olympics, tanking his ratings.
McNear’s fiery article unleashed a storm upon Richards: she dug up his past podcast “The Randumb Show” where he had made many offensive comments about women and went so far as to use racial slurs against minorities. She also found lawsuits from his time as the executive producer of The Price Is Right for the mistreatment of female employees by leadership.
Two days after her article came out, Richards stepped down as host. Now the question remains, if all of these attributes made him unfit for the hosting job, how can Sony justify his qualifications to be executive producer of Jeopardy!? Listen to this episode of “Today, Explained” to hear even more of this story.