Who really made the decision to have Mike Richards step aside as ‘Jeopardy!’ host?
By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links
Most media outlets are reporting that Richards “resigned” or “stepped down” from hosting the show and that Sony Pictures Television “accepted” his decision.
Richards’ exit comes after reports of how models on “The Price is Right” were treated during his tenure at the show and podcasts from 2013 and 2014 surfaced where he made inappropriate comments about Jews, women and other groups.
Richards denied any wrongdoing at “Price” and apologized for his comments on the podcast.
However, “Jeopardy!” remains one of the highest rated shows in syndication — and is reportedly immensely profitable.
Stations across the country pay tens of millions of dollars to carry the show in exchange for selling select ad spots when it airs (“Jeopardy!” makes more money by holding back some of the slots and through in-show partnerships with companies including Geico and Consumer Cellular).
Because of this, it’s likely that Sony wasn’t keen on having someone with bad press be the literal face of its multi-million dollar brand.
Just like Richards’ rise to the host lectern was shrouded with mystery and misdirection, it’s like the full story of how things unfolded behind the scenes at “Jeopardy!” and Sony really played out will never be known.
It’s possible that Richards was essentially forced to give up hosting the show, perhaps in exchange for keeping his EP job. It’s also possible he made the call by himself for the reason he stated: His past was drawing unwelcome attention to the show.
Fans weren’t exactly thrilled when Richards was appointed as host, and the move was criticized for how it essentially looked like Richards ended up hiring himself for the role despite parading through a bunch of guest hosts, some of whom were seemingly being auditioned for the role (Richards originally insisted that the decision of host would be solely in the hands of Sony, though it’s hard to imagine him not having any role in that process).
Sony may have, at the time, seen Richards as a “safe” bet since he was relatively unknown to viewers and therefore viewers might not have preconceived notions of him.
Apparently, however, they may not have vetted him very well — or chose to overlook the “Price is Right” controversy that was moderately publicized. However, since Richards was behind the scenes at that time, the general public might not have been as quick to make the connection had it not been dug back up by the press.
The podcasts were another story: They clearly featured Richards making the comments — which he acknowledged and apologized for. However, given the load of bad press following his appointment, it may have been seen as an “easy” way to reverse the decision of having him take over for Trebek.
In some ways, keeping him on board would be sending a strange message: Someone who makes offensive comments and had been linked to unfair treatment of women can’t host a show, but can still run it (again, Richards denies any wrongdoing at “Price”).
In fairness, all of these incidents happened well before Richards joined “Jeopardy!” and there have been no known complaints about his conduct while on staff at either show.
All told, it appears Richards will only appear in five more episodes — he reportedly taped shows Aug. 19, 2021, the day before announcing he was stepping aside.
While the show could opt not to air the episodes, it’s not likely given that Richards would have hosted the return of high profile champ Matt Amodio and not airing the episodes would affect the continuity of the show.