Mike Richards’s initially and, as it turned out, last working day of filming as the host of “Jeopardy!” began with a accumulating that executives at the long-jogging quiz exhibit hoped would symbolize a clean commence.
In a taped ceremony on Thursday at the Sony Photos ton in Culver Town, Calif., Sony exposed that the “Jeopardy!” studio would be renamed for Alex Trebek, the beloved host who died final 12 months. Mr. Richards smiled as cameras rolled and Mr. Trebek’s widow and children looked on.
A lot less than 24 several hours later on, Mr. Richards experienced give up his internet hosting gig, “Jeopardy!” creation was put on keep, and the show’s supporters were having difficulties to realize how a television establishment and staple of the American dwelling room could have botched a succession approach soon after 37 a long time of stability and good results.
Mr. Richards stepped down on Friday just after revelations of offensive and sexist responses he created on a podcast a number of years back, just nine times after Sony announced his new job with terrific fanfare. He wrote in a workers memo that “moving ahead as host would be much too significantly of a distraction for our lovers and not the appropriate shift for the clearly show.”
“Jeopardy!”, which very first aired in 1964, is meant to be TV’s ease and comfort food, an un-glitzy redoubt from politics and tribulations. Mr. Richards’s abrupt increase and fall plunged the display into the culture wars of 2021, subjecting it to extreme debates, specially on social media, around thoughts of privilege, variety and office lifestyle.
The show’s “appeal is its reliability and timelessness,” said Ken Jennings, the former winner and a “Jeopardy!” consulting producer. “It’s one of the past pure matters in a troubled age. And I detest that one thing pure like that has to be sullied by backstage drama.”
Sony stated Mr. Richards would continue being as executive producer. But he will have to contend with a dispirited “Jeopardy!” team whose frustrations erupted in an psychological meeting on Thursday, exactly where crew customers told Mr. Richards his earlier actions experienced imperiled the show’s popularity, in accordance to two people today who spoke on the issue of anonymity to explain delicate interior conversations.
Mr. Richards was now struggling with a furor just before this week. As the show’s government producer, Mr. Richards helped oversee the look for for Mr. Trebek’s substitution prior to Sony picked him above admirer favorites like the actor LeVar Burton. Outdated lawsuits had discovered accusations of sexist actions at his last job overseeing “The Value Is Appropriate.” (He disputes the claims.)
Till Wednesday, it appeared like Mr. Richards and Sony had weathered the storm.
Then a report in The Ringer, by the journalist Claire McNear, uncovered a sequence of offensive responses Mr. Richards built on a podcast he when ran known as “The Randumb Demonstrate.” In a 2013 episode, Mr. Richards joked about women who “dress like a hooker” on Halloween in another episode, he identified as his feminine co-host a “booth slut” due to the fact she when worked as a product at a customer clearly show in Las Vegas. He described girls who don one particular-piece swimsuits as on the lookout “really frumpy and overweight” and referred to stereotypes about Jews and massive noses.
Mr. Richards, a stand-up comic turned recreation present impresario, was serving as govt producer of “The Value Is Right” at the time he manufactured the responses, which prompted the Anti-Defamation League to connect with for an investigation.
“I’m not pretty absolutely sure he understands how hurtful and how problematic his earlier habits was,” the league’s main executive, Jonathan Greenblatt, mentioned in an job interview soon after Mr. Richards give up. “He didn’t apologize for the harm. He just apologized to his colleagues for leading to undesirable damaging focus and manufacturing delays.”
Mr. Richards’s podcast remarks also echoed some statements created towards him in the “Price of Right” lawsuits, together with allegations that he experienced balked when a person of the show’s on-air products announced that she was expecting with twins. In accordance to the lawsuit, Mr. Richards set his face in his fingers and advised her, “Twins? Are you significant?”
The scenario was ultimately settled. Mr. Richards reported in a assertion this thirty day period that the allegations do “not mirror the reality of who I am.”
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Andy Saunders, who operates the web site “The Jeopardy! Fan” and is a vocal online commentator about the display, stated he was stunned that Mr. Richards would keep on being as the show’s government producer.
“It feels like he does not fairly recognize the gravity of his blunder and thinks that if he just stays powering the scenes, then every thing will blow about,” Mr. Saunders claimed in an interview. He reported Sony manufactured a “massive mistake” by not correctly vetting the new host and observed that Mr. Richards’s podcast was posted on the world wide web.
“Either they did not pay attention to it, or they did hear to it and did not imagine it was a issue — both of which would be major mistakes,” Mr. Saunders explained.
At the taping Thursday in Culver City, Mr. Richards was joined by Anthony Vinciquerra, Sony Photos Entertainment’s main govt, and Ravi Ahuja, its Tv chairman. Two other contenders for Mr. Trebek’s position, the previous contestants Ken Jennings and Buzzy Cohen, also arrived, expecting to show up at Mr. Richards’s debut taping.
As an alternative, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Jennings were being escorted from the soundstage to a close by eco-friendly space, wherever they watched the taping over a closed feed. They have been advised that Mr. Richards was too nervous to have them in the studio, in accordance to a few men and women familiar with the incident, who spoke on the affliction of anonymity.
A single of the men and women likened it to inviting Joe DiMaggio back to Yankee Stadium and then not letting him in the dugout.
Sony stated access to the taping was limited mainly because of pandemic protocols restricting the selection of folks in the studio Mr. Vinciquerra was not on the soundstage, either.
The lookup to exchange Mr. Trebek, who hosted the display for 37 years, integrated a parade of visitor hosts like Anderson Cooper, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Buck and other individuals. Just one contender was just about not known to the audience: Mr. Richards, who started as executive producer of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” past yr.
At first, Mr. Richards spoke dispassionately about the search, telling The New York Occasions in January that he needed the show’s audience to weigh in on the collection and that the new host should really not be basically doing an “impression of Alex.” He did not mention that he could also be in the running.
“I imagine there will be strain and stress on whoever that particular person is,” he explained of the prospective new host.
Sony has reported that Mr. Richards moved apart from the collection approach immediately after he emerged as a applicant the best selection was created by Mr. Vinciquerra, the chief executive. But as govt producer, Mr. Richards retained a important position in pinpointing which tapes of potential hosts would be screened for the concentration groups that Sony was learning closely. Other supervising “Jeopardy!” producers had been excluded from that system.
Mr. Richards’s choice had drawn particularly fierce objections from a legion of admirers lobbying on social media for Mr. Burton, the longtime host of the PBS children’s sequence “Reading Rainbow.” Mr. Burton was a visitor host in July and experienced campaigned for the long lasting function, saying he felt like he had been making ready his complete daily life to host “Jeopardy!” and that it would be a major for a Black particular person to occupy the job for the first time. A representative for Mr. Burton declined to remark on Friday.
The show’s look for will now start again with a further collection of guest hosts. Mr. Richards’s week of telecasts, which include five episodes that he filmed on Thursday, are set to air the 7 days of Sept. 13. Mayim Bialik, the sitcom star, will stay as host of “Jeopardy!” key-time specials.
On Friday, Sony claimed in a statement that it had been “surprised” to find out of Mr. Richards’s offensive podcast opinions, but praised him for foremost “Jeopardy!” in the wake of Mr. Trebek’s death. “It is our hope that as government producer he will proceed to do so with professionalism and regard,” Sony mentioned.
The studio declined to remark over and above its organized statement.
In his individual memo on Friday, Mr. Richards wrote, “It pains me that these past incidents and reviews have cast this sort of a shadow on ‘Jeopardy!’ as we look to start out a new chapter.”
He concluded: “I know I have a ton of perform to do to get back your have faith in and self-assurance.”
Lauren Herstik contributed reporting.