After the passing of beloved longtime Jeopardy lead Alex Trebek late last year, the popular game show announced it would use a series of guest hosts until it settled on a permanent replacement. Not among those announced was Jeopardy executive producer Mike Richards, but when the contestants picked up their signaling devices on Monday, he was reading the clues. So, what happened? Well it turns out his stint has the same root cause as so many changes over the last year: Covid.
The first guest host to replace Alex Trebek was popular former contestant Ken Jennings. He performed well during his stint, but unfortunately, right as he was about to hand off the baton to the next guest host, there was an outbreak of Covid in Los Angeles County. That caused an availability issue for the next host. So, without a ton of other options, executive producer Mike Richards stepped in. Here’s what he said during his first episode…
I’m Mike Richards, the executive producer of Jeopardy, and I’m hosting today and for the next two weeks to keep the greatest quiz show in the world going. We have some amazing guest hosts coming, that I can’t wait for you to see. But with the Covid outbreak here in LA, folks were understandably a little reticent to shoot. Ken Jennings did a great job, but he’s unavailable due to obligations with his show The Chase so as the producer my job is to quite literally live the mantra: the show must go on.
Obviously Richards didn’t offer the wow factor some of the future Jeopardy hosts hopefully will, but what he lacks in star power, he more than makes up for in game show experience, as he's not only the executive producer but has also worked on other hit shows in the past including Wheel Of Fortune, The Price Is Right and Let's Make A Deal. In fact, many fans have already taken to Twitter to talk about how much they liked him in the role and some are even advocating he should take up the duties permanently.
Now, I’m not ruling out Mike Richards. I thought he was great too, but the show needs to work its way through a series of guest hosts. That will give Jeopardy some nice press each time it introduces a new person, and if someone doesn’t work out, it’s fine because they won’t be around that long. Then down the road, they can start having serious conversations about who actually works for a permanent spot.
The good news is I don’t think Jeopardy needs the biggest name to attract an audience. I think the game show mostly sells itself. Instead, it just needs to find an affable and competent replacement that fans like well enough to stick with. That could be Mike Richards, but it could also be Ken Jennings, Katie Couric, Aaron Rodgers or any of the other people we may see in the future. OK, it’s probably not going to be Aaron Rodgers, at least not while he’s still winning NFL MVP Awards, but as a Bears fan, I can dream about him quitting to take up hosting duties full-time.
Alex Trebek was very clear before his passing that he wanted the show to continue. It’ll never feel the same without him, but as a longtime Jeopardy fan, that’s perfectly fine with me. We’re on to a new evolution of Jeopardy, but as long as this version honors Trebek’s legacy and continues providing thought-provoking clues, I’ll be there watching.