Well, it’s official: Mike Richards and Mayim Bialik will be the new Jeopardy! hosts, beating out fan-favorites like LeVar Burton and Buzzy Cohen. Sony Pictures Television made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, also noting that Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings will make his return as a consulting producer on the show.
“We are thrilled to begin the next chapter of America’s Favorite Quiz Show with Mike hosting our daily show and Mayim hosting new versions of Jeopardy!,” says Sony Pictures Chairman Of Global Television Studios and Corporate Development Ravi Ahuja in a press statement. “We took this decision incredibly seriously. A tremendous amount of work and deliberation has gone into it, perhaps more than ever gone into the selection of hosts for a show—deservedly so because it’s Jeopardy! and we are following the incomparable Alex Trebek.” He also added that “a senior group of Sony Pictures Television executives pored over footage from every episode, reviewed research from multiple panels and focus groups, and got valuable input from our key partners and Jeopardy! viewers.”
Bialik is a good pick, considering she naturally fit as a host, and fans liked her during her trial run. But as much as Sony Pictures wants us to believe that fans actually were into the idea of having Richards as a host, the reports from last week that he was a frontrunner were met with dismay from loyal viewers.
It was a safe-enough choice, given that Richards is an executive producer on the show. But many expressed their concerns over the decision, due to past controversies. During his time as co-executive producer on The Price Is Right, model Brandi Cochran filed a lawsuit against CBS and FremantleMedia for discrimination due to her pregnancy. In the lawsuit, the model alleged Richards complained about her pregnancy at a holiday party, stating, “Go figure, I fire five models, what are the odds one of the ones that I keep gets pregnant?” and “put his head in his hands.” Cochran also alleged she was personally confronted by Richards, who berated her, saying, “Twins? Are you kidding? Are you serious?” She was awarded $7.7 million in punitive damages in the suit. Another model, Lanisha Cole, also filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment and wrongful termination in 2011, alleging that Richards refused to talk to her on set.
Richards denied these claims, writing: “These were allegations made in employment disputes against the show. I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price Is Right. I know firsthand how special it is to be a parent. It is the most important thing in the world to me. I would not say anything to disrespect anyone’s pregnancy and have always supported my colleagues on their parenting journeys.”
But even without the controversies, we’re still not convinced Richards would’ve been the best pick. As Alex McLevy wrote in the ranking of hosts, watching Richards as host felt like “a decent-enough substitute teacher: Sure, they’re acceptable for the time being, but always with the knowledge that their stay here is limited.” We’ll see how he fares now that he’s on the show permanently.