Mike Richards is out as “Jeopardy!” host, less than two days after Claire McNear’s article revealing the misogynistic (and otherwise offensive) remarks he made on his podcast a few years ago. He’s making it seem he “stepped down” to keep from being a distraction, but that’s just spin — the order must have come down from Sony. The media is buying that lie by printing headlines with the word “resigned.” No, he didn’t. Nobody who has spent his entire adult life desperately trying to become a game show host at all costs suddenly grows a conscience.
“Jeopardy!” started recording episodes for the upcoming season (which debuts 9/13) yesterday, with Richards behind the podium for the first five shows. Now Sony has to decide whether to air them next month, but not doing so would create a continuity problem, because when the most recent season ended, Matt Amodio was on an 18-game roll as champion. In fact, without all this Richards brouhaha, his return and continuing success would have been the bullet point used to build viewership.
Therefore, Sony can’t simply announce it won’t air the shows Richards emceed, and it would be very difficult to go back and re-shoot them with a new host. After all, they can’t use the same clues, and Amodio has (probably) already won more money and (possibly) remained champion all the way through. He (Amodio) would have to consent to some sort of unprecedented deal that would be very awkward, at best. Why would he agree to allow the contestants he’s beaten to have another shot, or do you erase them from the show’s memory and just go to the next watch of contenders? That’s way too complicated.
Then, there’s the question of what did Richards say at the beginning of the first new episode he recorded? If he didn’t lose the job until the day was done, he probably strutted out and announced how happy and proud he was to be following in Alex Trebek’s footsteps as the new full-time host. Sony could simply insist that Richards go back on the stage and record a new opening segment, which could be edited in. Or, the company could just tell the show’s editors to take out Richards’ remarks and go right from his introduction by Johnny Gilbert to the reveal of the first round of categories. Even so, it would be odd to watch that week air knowing what we know about his swift departure.
Meanwhile, executives are scrambling to find new guest hosts to fill for at least a month. Mayim Bialik’s agent should be the first call, or perhaps Ken Jennings, who Trebek had effectively promoted as his preferred successor. This is also a chance for Sony to expand its roster by trying out some people who don’t already have full-time jobs (unlike the majority of people Richards chose to fill in earlier this year), as well as more women and people of color (Aisha Tyler, for one).
For the moment, Richards remains executive producer, probably only until the syndicator figures out how much separation pay it has to give him to go away and never return. Sony can’t say it fired him for cause, because he wasn’t working for the company when he made the offending remarks. As I wrote the other day, this doesn’t speak highly of Sony’s seemingly nonexistent vetting process. It would be better off booting him from the building ASAP, to ensure he doesn’t do any more to hurt the “Jeopardy!” legacy. There’s no reason to let him have any input into the game or its hosts now — surely, other producers in the organization have the contact info for potential auditioners.
I think it’s also important to note that in the statement Richards released today, he shows no remorse, relying on the old cliches “I’ve made mistakes” and “I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence” in his memo to the “Jeopardy!” staff. The environment around the “Jeopardy!” offices and set must be mighty tense right now, but I’m sure there are several people on staff who are thrilled to see the dirtbag get his comeuppance.
Ironically, all of this self-made controversy may leave Richards with only one career option: hosting a podcast.
Updated 8/20/21 at 2:01pm: Claire McNear — who literally wrote the book on “Jeopardy!” — has posted on Twitter more revelations about stupid stuff Richards said on his podcast that she couldn’t fit into her original piece.