It’s official: Jeopardy exec producer Mike Richards will take over as the full-time host of the syndicated talk show, replacing the late and great Alex Trebek.
Additionally, Big Bang Theory alum Mayim Bialik will serve as the host of Jeopardy primetime and spinoff series, including ABC’s recently announced National College Championship.
Richards, who arrived at Sony with an overall deal in 2019 after spending a decade each on The Price Is Right and Let’s Make a Deal, serves as Jeopardy‘s exec producer.While he has hosting experience on Sony-backed Game Show Network’s Divided and The Pyramid as well as The CW’s High School Reunion and The WB Network’s Beauty and the Geek, his role as exec producer and involvement in discrimination lawsuits had taken the spotlight since news of his frontrunner status leaked last week. Richards addressed his role in those bias suits in a lengthy memo to Jeopardy staff earlier this week.
Richards was but one of many guest hosts to effectively audition for the job. Others included fan favorite LeVar Burton, former Jeopardy champs David Faber, Buzzy Cohen and Ken Jennings, as well as Savannah Guthrie, Sanjay Gupta, Anderson Cooper, Bialik, Aaron Rodgers, Dr. Oz, Katie Couric, George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts and Joe Buck. Of the group, Bialik and Cohen were also said to be among those still in consideration to replace Trebek, who hosted the beloved trivia show for 36 years. Sources previously told THR that Burton was a frontrunner to earn the role full time. Burton appeared to acknowledge that he wouldn’t be getting the full-time job in a tweet recently.
“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!,” said Ravi Ahuja, chairman of Global Television Studios and Corporate Development for Sony Pictures. “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.”
Ahuja continued, “We knew early on that we wanted to divide the hosting responsibilities and it became very clear that Mike and Mayim were the undeniable choices. They were both at the top of our research and analysis. Mike is a unique talent, at ease behind the podium and a double threat as producer and host. Mayim has a wonderful energy, an innate sense of the game, and an authentic curiosity that naturally represents the Jeopardy! brand. We are excited to get to work with them both and are confident that they will carry on the legacy of this iconic show.”
During his tenure as a co-executive producer of The Price Is Right, Richards’ alleged views on his female workers came into focus because of a discrimination lawsuit filed by Brandi Cochran in 2010 against CBS and FremantleMedia.
Cochran was a model on the show, but after taking time off for her pregnancy, she wasn’t invited to rejoin Price Is Right. She claimed being the victim of pregnancy discrimination. The case was ultimately settled. While Richards was exec producing The Price Is Right, it faced additional pregnancy discrimination claims beyond those made by Cochran. They weren’t successful.
“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,” Richards noted in his memo to staff this week.
“I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to host the syndicated version of Jeopardy!,” Richards said in a release Wednesday confirming his hosting duties. “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined being chosen to step into a role of this magnitude. I am incredibly humbled to step behind the lectern and will work tirelessly to make sure our brilliant contestants shine in each and every episode. Alex believed the game itself and the contestants are the most important aspects of the show. I was fortunate to witness his professionalism, intensity and kindness up close and that will serve as the ultimate blueprint as we continue to produce the show we love. I am thrilled that Mayim is joining the Jeopardy! team. Her academic track record and enthusiasm for the game made her a terrific guest host. It will be a privilege to produce the primetime series with her as host.”
Added Bialik, who also stars in the Fox scripted comedy Call Me Kat: “I couldn’t be more thrilled to join the Jeopardy! family. What started out with my 15-year-old repeating a rumor from Instagram that I should guest host the show has turned into one of the most exciting and surreal opportunities of my life! I’m so grateful and excited to continue to work with Mike Richards, and I’m just over the moon to join forces with him and Sony. After all the conversations we’ve had about this partnership, I am just so ready to get started!”
Former champ Jennings will return to the daily syndicated show as a consulting producer. Richards will continue to exec produce both Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Jeopardy will begin production on its 38th season this month. New episodes, hosted by Richards, begin Sept. 13.
“We’re honored to have Ken continue his role on the Jeopardy! team,” Ahuja said. “He has a long history with the show, and we look forward to continue working with him. We are grateful to all the guest hosts who helped us deliver this beloved game show last season. Losing Alex last year was heartbreaking for the millions of fans and everyone in the Sony Pictures family — but especially for and those on the Jeopardy team who had worked so closely with him. I want to acknowledge the entire team and thank them for their hard work and dedication and for continuing to produce outstanding entertainment while struggling with that terrible loss.”