We were already bummed out last week, when it was revealed that Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards was in “advanced talks” to take over as permanent replacement for the late Alex Trebek. He was a perfectly fine guest host, but the collective “meh” that greeted the announcement was very much in keeping with our assessment of his being in the bottom tier of the many potential hosts the show has auditioned over the course of this year. Our disappointment grew considerably, however, after the reveal that Richards was a defendant in multiple discrimination lawsuits over the years, including one that resulted in a $7.7 million settlement for the plaintiff, suggesting there might be real merit to this whole “Mike Richards has a history of gender-based discrimination” thing.
And now, in a move that seems maximally designed to appease critics without walking back the decision to appoint Richards the successor to Trebek, it’s been announced that Jeopardy! will have two hosts going forward: Richards and Mayim Bialik, the latter of whom is currently sitting at number three on our list of the best Jeopardy! guest hosts. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly a “two host” situation, if you look at the details. Richards will take over starting with season 38 of the long-running daily syndicated show—i.e., the Jeopardy! we all know and love—while Bialik will be hosting “primetime and spinoff series,” according to Sony Pictures Television, beginning with the forthcoming Jeopardy! National College Championship airing on NBC next year. In other words, Richards is the Jeopardy! host, and Bialik will periodically turn up to host some Jeopardy! offshoots.
Look, we understand Bialik is busy: The actor has a Fox sitcom, Call Me Kat, that’s already been renewed for season two, so it’s perfectly natural that she may not want to be putting in full-time work at two different jobs. But that doesn’t mean it’s still not a bad look that Jeopardy! producers (including Richards) spent the better part of a year conducting a lengthy search to find the best replacement for Alex Trebek, and at the end of it, looked to the former and thought, “Yeah, that’s the guy.” Sure, he has plenty of experience, but it’s such a bland, unexciting, and generic choice; while our top pick was Ken Jennings, followed closely by Aaron Rodgers, we would’ve been more interested to see just about any of the 10 guest hosts currently ranked ahead of Richards take over the gig.
It’s especially odd in the wake of the program’s total dismissal of Trebek’s own suggestions as to who might make a good replacement. The host was famously tight-lipped about the idea of a replacement, but in 2018 he floated two possibilities he would’ve liked to see: announcer for the L.A. Kings hockey team, Alex Faust, and an even more intriguing option, CNN legal analyst Laura Coates. While the show doubtless did tons of audience research and internal studies to settle on Richards, it’s a weird look to not even give a chance to the one Black woman Trebek himself suggested as a replacement. It’s an even weirder look in the wake of Richards’ legal troubles becoming public, which is why the sop of offering Bialik here and there—but never, you know, hosting the actual show itself, despite the whole “two hosts” press angle—feels like even more of an “oh, come on, now” decision.
Richards was acceptable as host, but wholly uninspired. Bialik was delightful, and brought a new energy to the long-running quiz show. So just drop Richards and give Bialik the job already, you cowards. (We’re sure Call Me Kat is great and all, but this hosting gig is a calling.) It’s not like Richards would be out of work; something tells us executive producing Jeopardy! is both lucrative and fun. You day job is already safe, Mike Richards—all the more reason not to make such a safe (and dull) choice of host.