Monday, August 16, 2021

Mike & Mayim: the new hosts of JEOPARDY

So Mike Richards got the syndicated JEOPARDY hosting gig.  Mayim Bialik will host specials and primetime editions.  

After the yearlong derby, here were my favorites:

Mayim, David Faber (I didn’t even know who he was before), Joe Buck (made the game and the show really fun… and he’s my podcast guest this week.  Check it out), Robin Roberts, Anderson Cooper, Ken Jennings, Buzzy Cohen, and Mike Richards.  

I don’t know what the excitement was about for Aaron Rogers (exceeding low expectations is not the same as “good”), and LeVar Burton (not living up to high expectations despite the hype) .  

Bringing up the rear were Dr. Oz and Bill Whittaker.   

The rest were all just sort of in the middle.  Various shades of meh. 

It should be duly noted that although Mike Richards is the Executive Producer of JEOPARDY, this was not his call.  This was the head honchos of Sony.  So it’s not like he just chose himself.   In fact, it was his job to train the other hosts and ensure they did the best job they could.  Almost to a person they have praise for Richards in how supportive he was.  He could have sabotaged them, but he didn’t.  And in this town...

Mike Richards also did an excellent job during his two-week stint.

One of the requirements was that JEOPARDY be the person’s primary gig.  That let out any of the candidates who already had sweet TV gigs.  Was Anderson Cooper or Dr. Gupta going to leave CNN?  Was Robin Roberts going to leave ABC or Savannah Guthrie NBC?   Even Mayim Bialik.  Hosting part-time allows her to continue her acting career.  For the syndicated show she would have to give up acting — tough to do when she’s currently starring in a sitcom that just got picked up for a second season.  

And finally, this:  Whenever I was show runner and we had a part for an athlete or a comedian, our philosophy was always “hire the actor.”  Yes, he may not be as authentic an athlete or comedian but he knows the ropes.  He knows how to commit to a character, how to deliver the jokes, how to hit marks and satisfy other technical requirements.  We never went wrong “hiring the actor.”   I think this is what Sony did.  Mike Richards knows how to host game shows.  He doesn’t need tutoring.  Yes, he may be a somewhat safe choice, but here’s the thing:  Whoever they picked there would be people outraged because he/she wasn’t their favorite or they hated him/her.   That’s the problem with on-air auditions.  You see the options.   If Mike Richards had been named permanent host immediately following Alex Trebek’s death it would take the audience a little time to warm to him and then he would just be accepted as the new host.  Very few people would stop watching JEOPARDY.  The year-long derby created unreasonable expectations.  But at the end of the day, this is the guy who got the job, you can grumble for a few months, and eventually you’re just watching JEOPARDY and this happens to be the guy reading the clues.  

I wish Mike Richards the best.  He deserved it as much as anybody and I think he’ll do a great job.  Would anyone do it better?  What difference does it make? They don’t have the job and Mike does.  

And Mayim Bialik will shine as well.  For her I couldn't be happier. She'll have no problem pronouncing those Yiddish clues. 


Brian Phillips said...

For all of the hand-wringing over who should have gotten the Jeopardy host job, imagine listening to THIS voice reading answers!

Jeff Weimer said...

Trebek became the soul of the show by...putting the show front and center. We don't need someone who is bigger than the game, and Mike is probably the best choice to keep it that way.

Jim S said...


What a clear, concise explanation of both your opinion and the realities and practicalities of television. You made your point, insulted no one, shared insider knowledge of the television industry and presented an explanation of Sony's choice and why it made sense. You were logical and fair-minded.

Are you sure this belongs on the Internet?

No, just kidding. This post reminds me of a comment chain I read on the automotive Web site Jalopnik a year or two ago. The story was about how GM, which enjoyed great success with its mid-engine Corvette Stingray, told questioners flat out when asked that the company wasn't going to build that model with a stick shift option. The question taker (whose name I can't remember) said that in today's market automatics make up about 95 percent of the market. To build a stick option for the Stingray would cost the company $1 billion and the relative lack of stick buyers didn't justify that choice, so no, GM wasn't going to build a stick Corvette. It was that simple. There was no "we're thinking about it and might if we can get the numbers to work" or it's something we'd all like because we're car guys". It was just no.

The comments read like GM was staffed by idiots who didn't understand that by spending and losing $1 billion on a stick Corvette, GM was buying "goodwill" and how could GM be so crass as to put a dollar amount on this nebulous goodwill.

Then one person, a retired automotive engineer who didn't work for GM, made a comment. This man pointed out that GM had smart people on the Corvette project. The car was both a critical and financial success. If the company spent that money just to buy the goodwill of Internet commenters who were never going to buy a stick Corvette anyway, He lauded GM for building the mid-engine Vette and for being upfront with the reasons why it wasn't going stick.

You would have thought he advocated fueling cars with unicorn blood the way the other commenters reacted. This guy didn't get it. GM had a responsibility to build that stick Corvette. Money didn't matter. And the man who pointed out all the problems with building a stick Corvette wasn't a real car guy. He was probably a shill for GM and deserved to be eaten by angry cannibals.

You have given me hope that there is hope for the Internet. Keep up the good work.

tavm said...

Mayim was my first choice but Mike was a close second!

Lairbo said...

I agree with your take on this. I doubt that every guest host was auditioning for the job, and for the reasons you cite. It's worth remembering that after Jack Paar suddenly left the Tonight Show, they filled in with guest hosts for nearly a year. Even after Carson was chosen, he had to wait until his current gig was over before he could start. No matter who got chosen as Jeopardy host, people were gonna gripe about it; that's just who we are now, apparently.

KLAC Guy said...

I guess I’m just a cynic, but I think the decision to give the job to Mike Richards was made shortly after Alex passed. The guest host parade was a great way to boost summer ratings and created a buzz on social media that kept the show in the spotlight.

I wish that Mayim Bialik had been given the lead job; she was my favorite. I have to disagree with you on Mike Richards, Ken. To me, he came across as a used car salesman at a “buy here, pay here” lot. His “sincerity” was so fake and he never even listened when he interviewed the contestants. I predict that ratings will initially rise as viewers give Mike a chance, but that they will eventually fall so much that they will find another new host.

Remember Paul Sunderland? Not too many do. He was Chick Hearn’s original replacement. It’s tough to replace a legend.

Michael said...

I am reminded anew of when the producers of Masterpiece Theater asked one of my writing idols, Russell Baker, to succeed Alistair Cooke, and he replied that he would be glad to succeed whoever succeeded Alistair Cooke. He took it on and did it well for more than a decade.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, the game's the thing. Not the host, unless it's a show like Groucho's or Family Feud, where Richard Dawson was clearly the star of it.

Final note: I remember the debut of a game show remake we watched, and my parents agreed: The previous host was better. They were thinking of Art Fleming. The show was Jeopardy. The host was Alex Trebek. Lest we forget ....

whynot said...

"...our philosophy was always 'hire the actor.'" Good grief. That's like saying "our philosophy was always 'hire the man' or 'hire the white guy'. You'll never convince me that Peyton Manning wouldn't be better than many of the 'actors' out there. The only thing worse than doing it is that you freely admit it.

Mike Doran said...

Disclaimer (sort of):
I'm coming up on 71 years old - a lot faster than I'd like to.
Thus, I have an unfortunately long memory of things that happened long ago (and oh so far away ...).
When Allen Ludden became seriously ill during one of Password's many runs, there was no muss or fuss: Mark Goodson simply went to the bullpen and called on Tom Kennedy to step in.
See, back then there was a bullpen: a whole gang of long-term guys who'd spent years of their lives learning how to do a live audience-participation show - and how to get the most out of it.
The inevitable problem, of course, was Inexorable Time In Its Flight: that bullpen began thinning out, due to aging and mortality.
Who nowadays knows the audience skills needed in this kind of show?
Right off the top of my head, Tom Bergeron comes to mind - and there the list (?) stops cold.
(Unless all of you can come up with names of your own - which you no doubt can and will; I bow to you all.)
As to Jeopardy!: turning this host thing into something like Presidential Succession just seems to Old Me - well, kinda silly, actually ...

Leighton said...

@ whynot

HOW on earth, are you equating "hire the actor," to "hire the man" or "hire the white guy"? Ludicrous.

You hire the professional. Very few athletes are actors. Many become reporters, or game show hosts.

Mike Barer said...

I think that Mike Richards interviewed us when we went to the Price Is Right, that was back in 20117. I think he was one of the producers at the time. We didn't get our names called, but we had a lot of fun.
Yes, I think Richards will do well.

Pat Reeder said...

I'm glad Mayim got it because she's one of the few celebrities whom I could imagine actually winning a game of Jeopardy.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I don't care who gets the job as long as he/she can start now. I'm sorry, I know he's a friend, but Joe Buck's voice is like sandpaper on my back teeth.

Who hosted during the Olympics? JEOPARDY was pre-empted where I live.

KB said...

I thought Mayim was easily the worst of all of the guest hosts. Glad she will only host special episodes, so I'll just skip watching those. Her laughing after question was answered? "Hahahah, yes!" made her sound insane and in turn drove me nuts as well.

tavm said...

To Buttermilk Sky-LeVar Burton and David Faber. Despite a big push by fans for Burton, he did not deliver.

Jee Jay said...

Mayim Bialik did a great job, but I can't imagine she was ever seriously interested in the full-time hosting gig. Not only is her show coming back, but she is currently directing her first feature film.

Whenever people talk about these guest hosts, nobody seems to mention the charitable contributions piece. Cooper, Stephanopolous, Roberts, etc. were probably more than happy to step in for a day of taping and help raise some bucks for a cause they support. (And some pretty big bucks with that Amodio buzzsaw in play).

Greg Ehrbar said...

Mayim Bialik when she was our Main Street host, aka "person on the street" on the Walt Disney World Christmas Parade Special. Regis Philbin had been handling it for years but this was his first year co-hosting in the booth. The fact that she followed Regis, the consummate veteran broadcaster, on live TV, shows what confidence was afforded her. Willard Scott did the same kind of thing for the Macy's parade.

And this was back in her days as "Blossom." She was the complete pro with zero mistakes. When you do these segments, have to get "in" and "out" from breaks and transitions. Some material is pre-written but the host has to be prepared to roll with the park guests, which are real people who are selected on the fly. Robin Roberts also appeared on the parade in the same capacity.

Most remarkable to me was Joan Lunden. She had a clock in her head and she could flawlessly back time seamlessly. If there were any slight glitches, and there were few but it was live, you never knew. Plus she and Regis would chat during the commercials and then she would pop right back into host mode. As the writer, I was happy to see that she was voracious about having as much preliminary information as possible so there were substantial things to say rather than plain chatter.

I think I've already written here about Regis, who was so kind underneath the bluster.

What a joy to work with real professionals. Balances out the other kind.

Douglas Trapasso said...

I wonder if Mike Richards, producer (TM) will make the executive decision to have guest hosts maybe a week here and there next season to give Mike Richards, host (TM) some extra time off. Perhaps not during sweeps, but during slower ratings weeks. I'm sure we all have names who weren't invited to guest this year who would welcome the chance, especially since there won't be any pressure i.e. "Will he/she be The One"?

Mitch said...

I was hoping David Letterman would get the hosting job.

I would like to high five Joe the face
with a chair.

He can really ruin a baseball game. He made the game in Iowa miserable.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Are you a time traveler from the future? Do they still have game shows in 20,117?

Ere I Saw Elba said...

Mayim Bialik was my top choice all along. Good for her.

But Michael Richardson--Kramer? Come on, you know he's gonna blurt out the N-word during some live taping of the show and just embarrass himself and everybody.

[P.S. I'm kidding, I know they aren't the same people, it's a joke so please relax]

Darwin's Ghost said...

Aren't the producers missing out on a potential market by not having a special version of Jeopardy for the red states? Pat Boone could host and the categories could be about things like cousin marriage, creationism, and lynchings. I'm sure stupid people and racists like to watch quiz shows too. They sure as hell won't watch a Jewish woman host Jeopardy.

sanford said...

Parr left in March of 62 and Carson took over October first. I wouldn't call that almost a year. I couldn't find a list of hosts between the time Parr left and Carso took over. I am pretty sure Groucho Marx was a host.

Charles Bryan said...

Ken, thank you for being sane. Sony had several good options, Richards amongst them. (If I recall, he wasn't even supposed to guest host, but did it because of Covid limitations.) It'll all be forgotten in a year or two.

Mike Schryver said...

Thanks for this post, Ken, especially for pointing out that Richards didn't choose himself. Everyone and his brother is going around saying he did, and I saw that statement in an actual news article. I think Richards was the best choice among the available people, that is, those for whom it would be their only job.

Chuck said...

I find it unfortunate that the guest hosts were talked up as competitors for the job. Did the makers of Jeopardy do that themselves? Or was all of that just online?

Viewers had no say so (or interest in say so) when Peter Marshall left "Hollywood Squares" and John Davidson showed up years later. Or when Richard Dawson left "Family Feud" and Ray Combs showed up when the show was brought back.

It wasn't a big thing at all when Alex Trebek became host when "Jeopardy" returned to television. Trebek was simply "the guy who used to host "The Wizard of Ods", "New High Rollers" and a few other rather forgettable game shows. "Jeopardy" had already been a proven success when Art Fleming had hosted.

Alex Trebek knew that it wasn't about him. Or the contestants. It was the game play itself that made the show. That's what it should have continued to have been about over these pasts number of months. I'll be watching when Mike Richards takes over. I wish him good luck.

Pat Reeder said...

To Darwin's Ghost:

I'm a professional writer with an honors college degree, and I've already gone on record above as supporting Mayim. I'm also a native and lifelong Texan. My niece and sister-in-law are both converts to Judaism. I live in Dallas, to which many of the Silicon Valley tech people are fleeing. Texas is home to Texas Instruments, Dell Computers, Electronic Data Systems, American Airlines, UT-Southwestern Medical Center, Neiman Marcus, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and NASA, where you literally have to be a rocket scientist to work. In fact, "Houston" was the first word spoken from the moon.

Maybe try widening your circle of "news" sources and shake some of the ugly, false negative stereotypes out of your head before commenting in public.

Alan Christensen said...

Many actors can play athletes. Most athletes can't play themselves. Exhibit A: "Safe at Home!" starring Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

Mike Barer said...

Christopher Lloyd, Adam Sandler, and Mike Richards all are producers who have the name of actors who are better known.

Darwin's Ghost said...

Pat, you obviously missed Ken's recent posts mocking the red states. And like those posts, my comment was clearly jokey in nature and didn't literally apply to every single person who lives in those states.

That said, there is a perverse irony in NASA being headquartered in a state that has so many people who are anti science that it now leads the USA both in low vaccination take-up AND hospitals being at breaking point from overcrowding because idiots who refused to get vaccinated are dying.

I'll leave you with this delightful Texan lady who screamed at a TV news crew for wearing masks and pushing the "deep state" agenda. Good day to you.

Necco said...

I am unfortunately in East Tennessee right now, and it is excruciating. People refusing to get vaccinated AND wear a mask. It is bonkers. And most of them are crowding into restaurants and churches, the later of which encourages the willful ignorance.

That being said, I am usually in the Austin/SA area, which is more "purple." Of course, I frankly wouldn't have a friend who refused to get vaccinated. And, yes, the situation has disrupted relationships.

Brandon in Virginia said...

My choice was Anderson or Mayim, but I knew Anderson wasn't leaving CNN for the reason you mentioned: they wanted someone who would make Jeopardy! his or her full-time gig. I loved Mayim, but knew her sitcom would take priority (even before the renewal).

I don't hate Mike as much as the rest of the Internet does and thought he did well as a host. However, I agree that he comes across as a used car salesman. But I'm willing to give him a chance, and think he will do just fine. I remember a lot of "WTF?" reactions when Drew Carey was announced as Bob Barker's replacement on The Price is Right, and he's now headed into his 15th year celebrating the show's 50th (!) season.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Not to be unkind, but it's good that Savannah Guthrie has (literally) a "day job" - with a tone and delivery all wrong for Jeopardy.


Good call. I once attended a failed "theatre experiment". An old-time play with an old-time play, with many teen-aged characters. This was amateur theatre in a small-twon, which had nonetheless suceeded with their productions. This one was a non-starter - with "accurately-cast" teen-agers playing teens. It failed in at least two-ways. First, they couldn't act - not even so well as amateur twenty-somethings can. Second, it was clear they did not understand the 18th Century dialog - and no one had explained it.

(did the adults understand it?)

The lovely Ms. Bialek not only WILL SHINE, she DID SHINE. I'd lay odds she's as "bookish" as most of the contestants, more so than Richards, and in the same league as the departed Dr. Trebek.

Kudos to the suits who respected an honored and valuable "property".

Jahn Ghalt said...

"Darwin" may be pleased to discover that "red states" are actually "purple" - and most folks in those states do not fit well in the little boxes so many are fond of stuffing "others" into.

(this is almost as unaware as those Dodger Talk regulars - not to mention unkind)

(**AND** I guess I missed "the joke" - "lynching" - really?)

Ken and Peri Gilpin noted this sort of diversity when they talked about how popular Frasier was in the "fly over states"


Thanks to Jim S for that Jalopnik no-stick Stingray story. The "billion-dollar price-tag" sounds too high by at least 10x (I also believe the the Wimbledon Centre-Court roof was much less than "100-million-dollars").

The point is well-taken even with the exaggeration. Grownups understand an owner's prerogatives even if the whiners don't - sounds a LOT like "DODGER TALK", where the "regulars" didn't understand the joke when Ken and his partner did their parody (good story on that podcast.)

I'm pleased that Joe Buck had SUCH a good time with his "audition" (which, he made clear was a bucket-list item during Ken's interview). Had it been an actual audition, I imagine he would have toned it down to more of a business-as-usual cadence, pitch, and volume (he's a PRO, after all)


Like KLAC Guy, I hold out hope that Bialek's circumstance will change and Richards will step aside and yield to her.


Chuck wrote:

It was the game play itself that made the show.

That, AND, the "home play" - 22 quick minutes, 60 quick (and one slow) "clues".

Liggie said...

Sportscasters would be natural fit for game shows. They're used to presenting a live show or event, they understand pacing, and they can handle unusual situations.

Top of my mind include Dan Patrick (who hosted a "Sports Jeopardy!"), baseball announcers Jason Benetti, Boog Sciambi and Dan Shulman, studio hosts or anchors Scott Van Pelt and Ernie Johnson, former NHL broadcaster Mike Emrick, and pretty much anyone who's anchored Olympics coverage for any of the various NBC outlets (Mike Tirico, Rebecca Lowe, Ahmad Fareed, Cara Banks and -- believe it or not -- Shepherd Smith). Didn't see the Joe Buck hosting stint, so I can't use him as a baseline comparison.

Roger Owen Green said...

I agree that Joe Buck was good - it IS a sporting event. But the "competition", while perhaps a ratings bonanza, was anyone other than LeVar ACTUALLY going to take the job?

I don't hate Mike Richards. But I'll be curious about the ratings starting Sept 13. Do people love J more than they dislike Mike?

BTW, I am a one-day champ back in 1998, but I've been watching the show since the Art Fleming days.

MikeN said...

Have people forgiven Mike for yelling insults at the audience?

Anthony Hoffman said...

This didn’t age well.

forg/jecoup said...

Mike Richard's skeletons in the closet coming out now, so I wonder what's your take on him after all this Ken

RyderDA said...

And the news I hear today is Mike is out. A year of auditions, a big selection announcement, and... done. What was that all about?

T.J. said...

This hasn't aged well. Bad background work by the company. He needs to resign entirely.

RockGolf said...

@t.j. Done.

I hope the new guest hosts include a second week for LeVar Burton. I don’t think he did a particularly good job, but that may have been first day jitters.

Geoduck said...

Evidently he doesn't know how to host a game show.

MikeN said...

Wait, do I understand this right- Mayim Bialik will be hosting very special episodes?

Janet said...

Ken, what do you think about the sudden implosion of Mike Richards?