Sony said Tuesday that Mike Richards will immediately step down as executive producer of “Jeopardy!” To longtime host Alex Trebek.
“We had hoped so when Mike left the role of host ‘Jeopardy!’ it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties that we have all experienced in recent weeks, ”Sony executive Suzanne Prete wrote in a note to staff on Tuesday. “This clearly did not happen.”
Mr. Richards is also set to step down from his role as executive producer of “Wheel of Fortune”. He will be temporarily replaced in both shows by Michael Davies, a veteran game show producer who developed the original US version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”
Sony has appointed Mr. Richards as the permanent host of “Jeopardy!” on August 11, calling him a “unique talent”. But Mr Richards stepped down as host on August 20, days after a report from The Ringer revealed offensive and sexist comments he made on a podcast several years ago, the last of a series of scandals that marred his brief tenure. Sony executives initially signaled their support for Mr. Richards to stay in the production role.
The contest to replace Mr. Trebek, who died in 2020 after hosting the show for 37 years, captivated “Jeopardy!” fans and featured a parade of potential successors including former contestant Ken Jennings and actor LeVar Burton.
But it was Mr. Richards who won out, despite having virtually no name recognition among viewers and as executive producer of the show, he oversaw elements of the replacement process. . Old lawsuits have also resurfaced from Mr. Richards’ last job as the head of “The Price Is Right” which included charges of sexist behavior.
Mr. Richards recorded a week of “Jeopardy! Episodes in a single day of filming before Sony announced that it had ceded the hosting job. (These episodes will still air the week of September 13.) Former sitcom star Mayim Bialik is set to continue hosting “Jeopardy!” prime-time specials, but Sony has said it will resume the search for a replacement for Mr. Trebek’s weekday time slot. Ms. Bialik will be the first guest presenter of the regular program in place of Mr. Richards.
Initially, Sony had said Mr. Richards would remain an executive producer even after he stepped down as host, but his continued presence on the show has become untenable. Team members confronted Mr. Richards in an emotional meeting on August 19 where they expressed dismay at his past behavior and said it had put the show’s reputation at risk.
“Danger!” first aired in 1964 and has grown into a beloved television institution that still attracts millions of weekly viewers. The fury surrounding Mr. Richards has pierced the reputation above the show’s fray, long cultivated by the low-key Mr. Trebek, and subjected it to intense debate over diversity, privilege and demeanor in the modern workplace.
Sony management was also coming under scrutiny for the mess. “Danger!” had been a reliable gem in the studio’s television portfolio, quietly earning tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue. But his messy succession drama upset fans and raised questions about why Sony had not discovered Mr. Richards’ past offensive behavior before naming him as the new host.
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The report in The Ringer revealed offensive comments Mr. Richards made on a podcast, including a 2013 episode where Mr. Richards called his co-host a “booth bitch” because she previously worked as a model in a mainstream salon in Las Vegas. He described the women wearing one-piece swimsuits as looking “really awkward and overweight” and referred to stereotypes about Jews and big noses, sparking outrage from the Anti-Defamation League.
Some “Jeopardy! Fans had said they did not understand why Mr. Richards was allowed to remain as executive producer. “It feels like he doesn’t quite realize the gravity of his mistake and thinks that if he stays behind the scenes then everything will fall apart,” Andy Saunders, who runs The Jeopardy! Fan said in an interview.
Mr. Richards, in a note to “Jeopardy!” on August 20, announcing he would be stepping down as host, wrote that “it pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow over ‘Jeopardy!’ as we seek to start a new chapter.
He closed the memo by writing, “I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your confidence.”
He will no longer have the chance.
Andy Saunders, who runs The Jeopardy! Fan said on Tuesday he was relieved by the news of Mr. Richards’ departure and hoped peace could be restored during the game show.
“His reputation has taken a hit in recent weeks,” he said in an interview. “I can’t wait to move on. And I hope the show has learned from what happened.
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