Here’s another sign that we might be in the most f-cked up timeline – the show that was supposed to be the least messy, the most organised, a show that was all about showing your work, is currently a total sh-tshow, the opposite of good work: Jeopardy! and the whole Mike Richards mess.
On the other hand, a person who has been showing her work is Claire McNear for The Ringer, whose reporting on the Jeopardy! situation and Mike Richards’s qualifications to take over as permanent host succeeding the icon Alex Trebek – or lack thereof – has been the driving source behind what has ensued. As the kids say these days, Claire understood the assignment and her assignment ended up exposing to the audience that Mike Richards does not get the assignment.
But this is not just on Mike Richards. I mean, yeah, as the executive producer of Jeopardy! and someone who we now know always actually wanted to be on camera, in any capacity, Mike Richards is shady as f-ck. But there was poor decision-making on the part of the people above him too. A production company and a television studio signed off on this. And now the fans feel betrayed, along with, reportedly, many Jeopardy! staff members who feel blindsided by this whole process
As Josef Adalian notes in a piece for Vulture published yesterday, this has resulted in the tarnishing of the Jeopardy! reputation, so much of which was built by the stalwart legend that was the face of it for so many decades. Alex Trebek was such a fixture, so effective and beloved, specifically because he always prioritised the show over his own spotlight. It was Alex who was always the first crusader for the quality of the show and its values (study, strategy, and speed), over and above his own celebrity. Alex was in it for the work, and if the work was great, well then he didn’t have to worry about his career and his fame.
So in the days following his death, for Jeopardy! fans, it was about finding someone who respected the essence of what made Jeopardy! Jeopardy!. This is why there was so much momentum behind LeVar Burton – because he’d proven over decades, like Alex, that his default commitment is to information, to knowledge, and to learning. That’s also why Aaron Rodgers also impressed Jeopardy! viewers. It was obvious how much he prepared, how much research he did, that he was a student of the show, that he was honouring the spirit of the show.
So the people who are now telling Josef Adalian in Vulture that what Mike Richards and the power players behind Jeopardy! have done is essentially sh-t on Alex’s legacy? They’re not wrong. Because this was SO avoidable. On every f-cking level, Mike Richards, even for someone with no television experience coming off the street cold, would know that he wasn’t the right choice.
They now have to reverse course. Ken Jennings is now supposedly the frontrunner for the role. He’s familiar to the audience, of course, and the thinking may be that after all this tumult, Ken is exactly what they need perhaps as a source of comfort. But is that enough to restore the trust? That’s the thing about a show like Jeopardy! that’s been around for so long – people TRUSTED everything about it: the host, the answer and question format, the FACTS.
Trust seems to be going extinct, and Jeopardy! had the distinction of being a program people trusted, they relied on it. Jeopardy! leadership already had big work ahead of them with their succession plan – and now they’ve made their own job even harder by having to come up with a new succession plan AND restore trust, if that’s even possible at this point.
Yours in gossip,