They made a great choice, but not the right one.
When Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards guest hosted the long-running quiz show, it seemed as though he was just doing the series a solid while it scrambled together to find other, more high profile guest hosts.
The loss of longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek was a massive one and the producers of the show decided to go with a fittingly massive tribute for the season that followed his death. The show cycled through 15 big name guest hosts (with one more, Joe Buck, still to come) to try their hand at the job that Trebek perfected. In addition to honoring Alex, Jeopardy! pitched this gambit as a legitimate “tryout” for the job.
Imagine everyone’s surprise then when the apparent placeholder already associated with Jeopardy! won the whole thing in the end. According to several reports (first by Variety), Mike Richards is in advanced talks to become the full time Jeopardy! host. It’s a great decision. But it also might not be the right one.
If Jeopardy! was sincere about this being a tryout, then it’s hard to argue that Richards didn’t win the job fair and square. We’ve been ranking the performances of the guest judges over here and Richards claimed the first spot early on and never relinquished it, despite spirited efforts from Buzzy Cohen and Mayim Bialik. Richards is quite simply a natural in the role. Despite only joining the Jeopardy! team in 2019, Richards has a deep understanding of what makes the show work and it’s certainly not the star power of the host. He runs an efficient, effective game and only interjects his personality at the most appropriate moments. Richards’ performance was well-received elsewhere as well, and EW notes that only Ken Jennings’ lengthy stint as guest host received higher ratings.
In a vacuum, Mike Richards is the right choice to replace Alex Trebek. The issue is: we don’t live in a vacuum. The choice of Richards brings some unnecessary baggage to the TV institution that has successfully operated without baggage for years. Richards has a controversial tenure at his former job as producer on another game show. In 2012, Price is Right model Brandi Cochran won a discrimination lawsuit against the show for being sidelined and harassed after she became pregnant. Cochran singled out Richards as a producer who gave her less work following the pregnancy. The legal win was later wiped out by a judge due to the jury not receiving proper instructions.