As Mike Richard quits hosting role after backlash, a look at how succession got messy at Jeopardy!-Entertainment News , Firstpost

Below the retro, feel-good floor of Jeopardy!, the succession battle is a narrative of tv’s dwindling actual property in American life and the strenuous efforts to occupy considered one of its remaining fascinating plots.

When Ken Jennings arrived on the Jeopardy! studios in November for the primary day of his audition to change into the brand new host of the long-running quiz present, he discovered a present ready for him: a pair of Alex Trebek’s cuff hyperlinks, together with a handwritten word from his widow, Jean.

Trebek, the Jeopardy! galaxy’s central star, had died of pancreatic most cancers three weeks earlier than, setting off a frenzy in Hollywood: one of many biggest jobs in tv was out there for the primary time in 37 years.

For some members of the Jeopardy! crew, the cuff hyperlinks validated their assumption that Jennings, a genial Utahan who rose to fame in 2004 after successful a report 74 consecutive video games, had been Trebek’s most well-liked successor. (Jeopardy! producers had organized for a cellphone name between Jennings and Trebek two days earlier than he died.) However Jeopardy!, whereas a beloved cultural icon, can be a profitable asset of Sony Photos Leisure, and within the tv trade, sentiment solely goes up to now.

Alex Trebek

Jeopardy!, whose first iteration started in 1964, is considered one of TV’s final bastions of consolation meals, a spot the place politics don’t matter and the actual world is definitely digested in just-the-facts bites. Then its succession drama acquired messy. After a cattle name of visitor hosts, together with Anderson Cooper, Robin Roberts, Aaron Rodgers, LeVar Burton and even Dr Mehmet Oz, the announcement of the winner despatched followers right into a tailspin. The brand new weekday host could be Mike Richards, the present’s obscure govt producer and the person initially charged with discovering Trebek’s substitute.

Richards, it appeared, didn’t need to look very far.

Critics accused Richards of rigging the competition à la Dick Cheney, who led the vice-presidential seek for George W Bush. Previous lawsuits surfaced from Richards’ earlier job, at The Value Is Proper, involving his therapy of feminine workers members. (He denies wrongdoing.) After Sony mentioned the Massive Bang Principle actress Mayim Bialik would host the present’s prime-time spinoffs, her previous skepticism about vaccines recirculated. (Her staff mentioned “she is in no way an anti-vaxxer.”)

Below the retro, feel-good floor of Jeopardy!, the succession battle is a narrative of tv’s dwindling actual property in American life and the strenuous efforts to occupy considered one of its remaining fascinating plots.

“It’s a little like selecting a pope,” Jennings mentioned, in his first interview for the reason that new hosts have been introduced. “Should you don’t watch Jeopardy!, you don’t perceive, however individuals take this very critically.”

As Mike Richard quits hosting role after backlash a look at how succession got messy at Jeopardy

Mike Richards

In an age of atomised audiences, Jeopardy! nonetheless averages 8.8 million viewers per week, in line with Nielsen — not fairly NCIS territory, however roughly corresponding to a community night newscast. Its viewers skews older: Final 12 months, about 4 out of 5 viewers have been over age 55.

And the job itself is, as any Hollywood agent would let you know, a fairly candy gig.

When the Jeopardy! forged and crew collect on the Sony Photos stage in Culver Metropolis, California, they movie 5 30-minute reveals in a single day, the equal of 1 week of syndicated tv. The host works roughly two days per week, two weeks a month — and towards the top of his tenure, Trebek’s wage was estimated at $16.5 million. Sony wouldn’t disclose Richards’ compensation, however a number of individuals aware of inside discussions mentioned it was considerably much less.

There are different perks to being the face of a present that’s nonetheless watched by a broad viewers on native community associates, a rarity because the nation divides into ever-more-partisan extremes and as conventional TV is supplanted by area of interest streaming providers.

“It’s appointment tv, which is uncommon,” mentioned George Stephanopoulos, the ABC Information anchor, who visitor hosted for per week. “It’s the form of factor you may watch along with your entire household.”

Plus there’s the mirrored glow of all the time having the appropriate solutions.

“It’s completely iconic,” mentioned Rick Rosen, the TV superagent at Endeavor. “All people is aware of the present and has performed together with it. And it’s not the kind of present the place you’re only a genial host — there’s a notion of intelligence that goes together with it.”

Not like his rivals, Richards, 46, had a deep background in sport reveals. Born in Burbank, California, he began his profession as a humorist and went on to host sport reveals just like the mid-2000s concoction Magnificence and the Geek. He hosted and produced quite a few collection on the Recreation Present Community earlier than auditioning to switch Bob Barker on The Value Is Proper. Drew Carey acquired the job, however Richards was introduced on as govt producer; his profitable 11-year tenure revived the wilting franchise into a success.

By Jeopardy! requirements, although, he was a newcomer.

He began as govt producer at each Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune in Might 2020, changing Harry Friedman, who oversaw each reveals for 25 years. Richards overlapped with Trebek on set for under 15 shoot days earlier than the host stepped apart, 10 days earlier than he died.

Sony mentioned that whereas Richards initially led the hunt for Trebek’s substitute, he moved apart after he emerged as a candidate.

However as govt producer, Richards retained a key function in deciding on which appearances by every potential host could be screened for focus teams, whose reactions weighed closely in Sony’s decision-making, in line with three individuals aware of the present’s inside deliberations. The opposite supervising Jeopardy! producers have been excluded from that course of, the individuals mentioned.

Requested about Richards’ function, Sony referred to a memo from its TV chairman, Ravi Ahuja, who advised workers that after the corporate started contemplating Richards as a possible host, “he was not a part of” the choice course of. The last word choice was made by Tony Vinciquerra, the chairman of Sony Photos Leisure.

As questions mounted, Richards despatched a memo to Jeopardy! workers that was distributed by Sony’s publicists.

“The selection on this isn’t my choice and by no means has been,” Richards wrote. He mentioned the Value Is Proper litigation — which included an allegation that he made insensitive feedback to a pregnant worker — “doesn’t replicate the truth of who I’m.” (Sony mentioned it had “spoken with Mike in regards to the points raised in these instances and our dedication to sustaining a office surroundings the place our workers are revered and supported.”)

On Thursday, Sony introduced Richards and Bialik as co-hosts, though for now, just one prime-time particular that includes Bialik is scheduled. “What began out with my 15-year-old repeating a hearsay from Instagram that I ought to visitor host the present has became one of the vital thrilling and surreal alternatives of my life!” Bialik mentioned in a press release.

Jennings, who stays a consulting producer at Jeopardy!, praised Richards’ efficiency. “Mike was the one individual up there with any sport present internet hosting chops and it confirmed,” he mentioned.

Some followers argue {that a} comparatively bland, little-known host was all the time a greater final result than a celeb. “The sport is the star, and the contestants are the celebs,” mentioned John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary journal and a 1987 quarterfinalist within the Jeopardy! Match of Champions. “The host must be a secondary determine.”

For his half, Jennings agreed. “What was nice about Alex was we didn’t know something about him: He got here into our properties each evening and he hosted Jeopardy!,” Jennings mentioned. “At this time, it’s very exhausting to discover a broadcaster whose priors and opinions nothing about.”

Jennings, who visitor hosted six weeks’ value of reveals, mentioned he harboured no exhausting emotions in regards to the final result.

“I knew Jeopardy! was in a spot this 12 months, and I principally wished them to have a clean transition,” Jennings mentioned. “I used to be not going to foyer for that job within the media, ever. I used to be not going to plant tales about what a promising younger candidate I used to be. I wasn’t eager about doing any of that. I’m an organization man.”

Michael M Grynbaum and Nicole Sperling c.2021 The New York Instances Firm

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