‘Jeopardy!’ Viewers Watch Now-Fired Host On Pretaped Episodes As Hosting Gig Remains In Limbo

‘Jeopardy!’ Viewers Watch Now-Fired Host On Pretaped Episodes As Hosting Gig Remains In Limbo

Perhaps the weirdest week of episodes in 'Jeopardy!' history just concluded, but one constant remained — Matt Amodio kept winning.
Christopher Jacobs
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Perhaps the weirdest week of episodes in “Jeopardy!” history just concluded, but one constant remained — Matt Amodio kept winning. His winning streak, which has now reached 23 episodes (among five separate hosts) and more than $800,000 in earnings, has served as a backdrop to the continuing melodrama that has dominated the headlines over the summer.

That melodrama continued to play out both inside and outside Stage 10 — the newly renamed Alex Trebek Stage — over the past five days. In that time, one “Jeopardy!” host came and went, and some hints about future hosts began to emerge.

Highs and Lows

During his brief stint as “permanent” host, Mike Richards showed both why he got the job, and why he got fired. On the one hand, he moved through the program smoothly and crisply, and didn’t appear to struggle presenting the clues. In general, Richards showed the genial, competent manner that came across well during his time as guest host in February, and which caused Sony to select him last month.

But in several specific incidents, Richards displayed traits that, particularly in hindsight, seem insincere and inauthentic. He started off Tuesday’s episode by reiterating longtime host Alex Trebek’s sage advice that the contestants are the stars of “Jeopardy!” But the best way to demonstrate that maxim involves the host getting off-camera to let the contestants do their thing — rather than hogging the spotlight while preaching about how “the contestants are the stars.”

During banter with contestants in the interview segment on Friday, he talked about being a lifelong fan of “Jeopardy!” But yet, as The Ringer noted in the August expose that ultimately cost him the hosting gig, Richards said in a 2013 podcast interview with Ken Jennings that trivia was not his strength.

I am horrible at all trivia. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a specific area I should know. I don’t have that kind of mind….If I had gotten on Jeopardy!—well, I never would have gotten on Jeopardy!, let’s be square.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Richards always did love “Jeopardy!,” despite not having a brain for trivia. But upon hearing his comments Friday, this viewer immediately remembered his podcast comments with Jennings, and thought the remarks in the interview segment contrived — trying to win over longtime “Jeopardy!” fans by pretending to be one of them.

At the conclusion of Friday’s episode, Richards did thank the hard-working, and in my experience tremendously gracious, “Jeopardy!” staff for continuing the show’s legacy. Then, apparently not knowing he would step down as host hours after the episode taped, he closed by saying, “We’ll see you next week.” Except viewers won’t see Richards this week — or any other time, for that matter.

Temporary Host Schedule Announced

On Thursday, Sony announced that Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings, both of whom emceed shows earlier this year, would guest host “Jeopardy!” episodes through the end of the calendar year. Initial reports implied that the two would host through the end of the 38th season, but it appears the taping schedule for episodes beyond December remains undetermined.

Bialik already taped three weeks’ worth of episodes — the week of shows scheduled to tape on the day Richards stepped down as host, and two additional weeks’ worth, all of which taped the week of August 23, while Richards remained executive producer. She has taped, or will tape, an additional four weeks’ worth of shows, lasting through November 5, after which point “Bialik and Jennings will split hosting duties as their schedules allow through the end of the calendar year.”

The process for selecting a permanent host remains unclear. Sony may simply select from Jennings and Bialik. TMZ reported that Sony has great interest in the latter for the permanent gig, but her production schedule for her Fox sitcom “Call Me Kat” heretofore presented an obstacle, but one Sony now believes it can overcome. Alternatively, the producers may choose to audition one or more external guest hosts.

Whatever the Sony team decides, hopefully they will eschew a procession of a dozen-plus guest hosts, many of whom had little interest in permanently hosting, for a more focused search. If they do want to audition guest hosts, invite a handful of interested people and give them a longer stint of episodes (say, four or six weeks’ worth) to get themselves acclimated and see who seems the best fit. I will continue to argue that the longest-tenured female game show host in American television history deserves a shot.

But LeVar Burton Bows Out

Regardless of what Sony decides, at least one prominent campaigner for the “Jeopardy!” gig appears unlikely to return behind the Stage 10 lectern. Also on Thursday, LeVar Burton, who spent the better part of last spring campaigning for the role of “Jeopardy!” host, said on “The Daily Show” that he had lost interest in emceeing the program: “When you set your sights on something…be careful of what you wish for, because what I found out is that it wasn’t the thing I wanted after all.”

Burton’s decision to give up his quest will undoubtedly upset much of Woke Twitter, but given his performance as guest host, it seems the best for both him and “Jeopardy!” Beginning Monday, appearances by Bialik, Jennings, and potentially others will help to determine who gets the host’s role instead.

Chris Jacobs is founder and CEO of Juniper Research Group, and author of the book, "The Case Against Single Payer." He is on Twitter: @chrisjacobsHC.

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