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The optics of Jeopardy!'s hosting announcement look bad: Were the guest-host auditions all for show?

  • Jeopardy! champion James Holzhauer was quick to roast Sony Pictures Television's decision to name Mike Richards the regular host of the iconic syndicated game show, while Mayim Bialik becomes host of the primetime specials and spinoffs. "Also new for next season: contestants can submit two Final Jeopardy responses in case the first one causes public backlash," tweeted Holzhauer. The decision to go with Richards for the main job, while giving Bialik a secondary role, looks bad after last week's backlash to Variety's report that the Jeopardy! executive producer was the frontrunner. "Ultimately, regardless of what went on behind the scenes, the optics of the decision look like: 'So the man with the inside track gets the main gig, but because people were mad, we’ll have a woman host some of the time,'" says Marina Fang. She adds: "It’s hard not to feel like the whole guest host process was just for show. Sure, it was fun to see a variety of hosting styles — some pretty good, some kind of rocky, some extremely questionable (uh, Dr. Oz) — and the show raised a lot of money for the charities each guest host chose. But it’s all a huge disappointment and insult to fans, since the show made a big deal out of the guest host process, ginning up enthusiasm and assuring viewers that they were taking our responses and feedback into consideration. Richards wasn’t bad when he guest-hosted this winter (though, according to The Ringer’s Claire McNear, the circumstances behind his guest-host turn are a bit shady), but he didn’t appear to be a fan favorite." McNear, author of the book Answers in the Form of Questions: A Definitive History and Insider's Guide to Jeopardy!, reported that Richards' description that he was a last-minute substitute host because of the pandemic may have been exaggerated. "Instead, a planned host had a minor conflict during one of the show’s upcoming tape days," said McNear. "Jeopardy! staff and crew told the host that they could work around it—only for Richards to step in and insist on hosting himself, according to the sources, one of whom described feeling surprised that Richards characterized his presence onstage as an emergency substitution."


    • Mike Richards is "practically a factory-made copy" of the stereotypical white male TV host: "The upset around Richards’ selection is as much about the process as it is about his ability to step into the role — and what that process says about how Hollywood has and has not changed after years of conversation about white male privilege in the industry on the one hand, and a serious lack of diversity on the other," says Matt Brennan. "Richards, handsome and trim, affable and plainspoken, is indistinguishable in his charcoal suit from most every other game or quiz show host in the history of the medium, not to mention most news anchors, weathermen and late-night hosts; he is practically a factory-made copy of the messenger Hollywood has imagined Americans want beamed into their homes since pretty much the advent of TV itself — making him at once a safe bet for Sony, which has a lot riding on Jeopardy!'s  sustained success, and a frustrating choice for the many observers who saw the passing of the baton as a chance to cast a trailblazer like (LeVar) Burton in a programming powerhouse. I’m not sure it reaches the level of Dick Cheney choosing himself as George W. Bush’s running mate, but it does all have a slightly unpleasant taste to it. Plus, after that news cycle over the lawsuits, all filed by women, Bialik’s selection does have the feel of... a consolation prize? A backup plan? A cop-out? It seems unlikely to quell critics of Richards as host, and presents the potential for Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien-style shenanigans down the line — especially if Jeopardy! becomes more of a fixture in prime time, where the Greatest of All Time tournament, hosted by (Alex) Trebek, turned into a rare broadcast sensation in early 2020."
    • Mayim Bialik's rep had to clarify that she's not an anti-vaxxer following news of her Jeopardy! hosting gig: “She has been fully vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus and is not at all an anti-vaxxer,” a spokesperson for Bialik told The Wrap. Bialik's past comments about vaccines surfaced on Twitter following the announcement. In 2012, Bialik wrote in her parenting book that she hadn't had a vaccine in 30 years. But in an October 2020 video titled “Anti-Vaxxers and Covid," she and her children have the proper shots. 
    • Jeopardy!'s hosting decision was widely roasted on Twitter

    TOPICS: Mike Richards, Jeopardy!, James Holzhauer, Mayim Bialik, Game Shows, Sony TV