After weeks of celebrity tryouts, leaks and heated speculation by game show fans, current executive producer Mike Richards and actor Mayim Bialik have been named permanent co-hosts of Jeopardy!, marking the first time two people will host one of television's most popular game shows.
Richards will host the daily syndicated program, while Bialik hosts the primetime series and new spinoffs. The announcement was first reported by The Daily Beast.
Widely circulated reports that Richards was first in line for the job provoked immediate backlash online. Critics described the choice as unadventurous and pointed to a lawsuit alleging toxic behavior in a previous job. Infuriated fans of LeVar Burton, the beloved television icon known for his work on shows ranging from Roots to Reading Rainbow to Star Trek: The Next Generation were also quick to express displeasure.
two lecterns— darth™ (@darth) August 11, 2021
alternating asking questions
take turns asking final jeopardy question
one of them is levar burton https://t.co/YtFzuBs15G
In a statement, Ravi Ahuja, chairman of global television studios and corporate development for Sony Pictures, wrote: "We took this decision incredibly seriously. A tremendous amount of work and deliberation has gone into it, perhaps more than has ever gone into the selection of hosts for a show — deservedly so because it's Jeopardy! and we are following the incomparable Alex Trebek. 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."
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
In a surprise move, the game show "Jeopardy!" has named not one but two hosts to replace Alex Trebek. Trebek was a TV fixture who set a kindly and dignified tone on one of the more erudite game shows for more than 36 years. Trebek died last year from pancreatic cancer. And since then, there has been, well, a host of celebrities clamoring to take his place. NPR arts correspondent Neda Ulaby is here to tell us about both of his replacements.
NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Hi.
KELLY: So I guess we're talking Double Jeopardy! here. Who are the new hosts?
ULABY: Well, who are Mike Richards and Mayim Bialik? This is a disappointment for the legions of people who were rooting for LeVar Burton. But the new hosts are Richards, who is the current executive producer of "Jeopardy!," and Bialik, who is best-known for starring on "The Big Bang Theory."
KELLY: Yeah, speaking of "Big Bang Theory," Bialik is not only an actress but a trained neuroscientist. Is that right?
ULABY: She does. She does deliver some important nerd credibility. And she was impressive and charming when she guest-hosted the show. Can we take a listen?
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JEOPARDY!")
MAYIM BIALIK: Physics winners Penzias and Wilson had to shoot pigeons from their antenna to pick up background radiation from this big event - Julia (ph).
JULIA: What is the big bang?
JULIA: (Laughter) Hey.
KELLY: Wow, so her bona fide is on full display there. But how is this actually going to work with two hosts?
ULABY: Well, Mike Richards got the big prize. He's hosting the daily syndicated program. And Mayim Bialik will host primetime specials and spinoffs, like the college championships. We don't know how many of the Bialik-hosted shows we're actually going to see. So let's hear Mike Richards, when he was guest-hosting "Jeopardy!"
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JEOPARDY!")
MIKE RICHARDS: Sam (ph), you are the returning champion.
SAM: Let's do political slang, 200.
RICHARDS: Gucci Gulch refers to the section of K Street, home to well-financed offices of these people who ask Congress for stuff - David (ph).
DAVID: What are lobbyists?
ULABY: So Mike Richards is smooth. He has experience as a host. He's hosted five shows in the past, including "Beauty And The Geek." He only started as "Jeopardy!'s" executive producer last year, and Sony says he is going to continue in that role.
KELLY: Yeah, which prompts a question - if he is the current executive producer of "Jeopardy!," he just picked himself for one of the best hosting gigs on TV?
ULABY: (Laughter) That's not what he says, and it's not what Sony says - the company that owns "Jeopardy!." This all came up when Mike Richards' name got leaked in public last week as the front-runner. This unleashed a small storm of controversy, and people compared him to Dick Cheney.
KELLY: I was just going to say that the whole - it's a total Dick Cheney move. Dick Cheney was asked to run George W. Bush's, you know, committee to pick who should be the vice president. And somehow, he ended up saying, I would be the best person to do this (laughter). It was similar.
ULABY: Right. For the record, Sony does say that a committee of executives picked the right person for this job - or the right people. Richards seemed like a lot of people to a very unadventurous choice. He's a very blandly appealing white guy. There's - we've seen - he fits a very predictable mold. And he was also named in several lawsuits by models at his former job at "The Price Is Right." They claimed he contributed to a toxic work environment, where these female co-workers got pregnant.
KELLY: Well, so what's the reaction? What are people saying about these choices for "Jeopardy!" host?
ULABY: It is pretty much what you would expect. One of my favorite tweets was from the host of another show, "The Chase" on ABC, who joked that maybe now "Jeopardy!" contestants can submit two responses...
ULABY: ...Just in case one of them causes public backlash.
KELLY: I'm all for it - NPR's Neda Ulaby.
ULABY: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF EMPRESARIOS' "LOCK IN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.