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Mike Richards is no longer the executive producer of Jeopardy!.
The producer, who was very briefly named the new permanent host of the daytime game show, is exiting his role on that show as well as Wheel of Fortune amid a series of scandals.
Suzanne Prete, executive vp business and strategy for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! sent the following message to the show’s crew:
I’m writing to let you know that Mike will no longer be serving as EP of Wheel and Jeopardy! effective immediately. We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened.
Michael Davies from Embassy Row has agreed to help with production on an interim basis until further notice. Michael and I will work together with all of you in the weeks ahead to ensure that production remains on schedule and we do not miss a beat as we head into the new season.
I know this has been a challenging time for the entire team, and I want to thank you all for your cooperation and professionalism over these last few weeks. As Ravi mentioned last week, I will be more involved in the day-to-day on our shows moving forward and I am looking forward to working closely with all of you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything.
The news is the latest twist in what’s been a dramatic several weeks for a normally sleepy syndicated game show.
After the passing of beloved host Alex Trebek last November, the Sony Pictures Television production began a protracted and methodical hunt for a new host, auditioning more than a dozen talents with weeklong guest-host stints.
Earlier this month, SPT made the surprise decision that a little-known contender, Richards, would take over as permanent host. The move immediately drew ire from fans and critics given that Richards was also the show’s executive producer, which made the decision feel like nepotism, even though the studio insisted its top executives independently made the host choice based on merit and market research feedback.
Quickly a series of scandals emerged: Richards was previously the focus of prior discrimination lawsuits during his time as executive producer on The Price Is Right and made crude and offensive jokes during a short-lived podcast he hosted from 2013-2014. After working as the show’s new host for a single day, Richards announced he was stepping down from his newly acquired position.
“It pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter,” Richards said in a statement. “Over the last several days it has become clear that moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show. As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately … I want to apologize to each of you for the unwanted negative attention that has come to Jeopardy! over the last few weeks, and for the confusion and delays this is now causing. I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence.”
Richards initially remained on Jeopardy! as an executive producer, however, a decision which many questioned given his resurfaced history and new reporting that suggested he may have put his thumb on the scale of the host search.
Richards also has an overall deal with SPT which he signed in September 2019, a month after being named EP to replace 25-year Wheel and Jeopardy EP Harry Friedman. Discussions are ongoing as to the status of the contract.
The production quickly pivoted hiring Mayim Bialik as guest host. The Big Bang Theory alum was also a leading contender for the permanent host job and had already signed on to host upcoming Jeopardy! specials, including the upcoming Jeopardy! National College Championship. Yet Bialik had some baggage as well, having made controversial statements about vaccinations, birth control and and Harvey Weinstein’s victims.
At this point, insiders say that SPT is not looking to have another lengthy round of guest hosts but would rather prefer to secure a permanent host as soon as possible. Bialik is said to continue to be a frontrunner, providing producers can work around her filming schedule on her Fox sitcom Call Me Kat.
One possible approach, insiders say, is to have Bialik running point as a the permanent daytime host and also have a couple regular backup hosts (possibly fan favorites Ken Jennings and Buzzy Cohen) for when she has a schedule conflict. Others insist the situation is still fluid and no gameplan has yet been fixed. Sony Pictures Television had no comment.
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