All About Jeopardy! Host Mike Richards and His Role in Searching for Alex Trebek's Successor
About nine months after beloved Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek died, Sony Pictures Television announced Wednesday that he would have two successors: executive producer Mike Richards, for the daily syndicated show, and Big Bang Theory alum Mayim Bialik, for primetime and spinoff series.
"I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to host the syndicated version of Jeopardy!," Richards said in a statement. "Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined being chosen to step into a role of this magnitude. I am incredibly humbled to step behind the lectern and will work tirelessly to make sure our brilliant contestants shine in each and every episode."
"Alex believed the game itself and the contestants are the most important aspects of the show," he continued. "I was fortunate to witness his professionalism, intensity and kindness up close and that will serve as the ultimate blueprint as we continue to produce the show we love."
The decision came after a rotation of interim guest hosts — including Richards, 46, and Bialik, 45 — took over the podium while Sony searched for Trebek's full-time replacement.
Richards' nomination has garnered mixed reactions from viewers thus far. Here's everything to know about the new Jeopardy! host, from his experience with game shows to a past controversy.
What has the response been to his hosting news?
After the news was announced, fans and celebrities were swift to react on social media. Though many were congratulatory of Richards — "Jeopardy made the right decision. Mike [Richards] was the best," one Twitter user wrote — others expressed disappointment that Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton was not chosen.
Director Ava DuVernay shared a GIF of Dan Levy on Schitt's Creek and wrote: "Me trying to create a show right in this moment for @levarburton to host and make an international hit." Community alum Yvette Nicole Brown said she was "very happy" for Bialik, but said "the way the search was handled did @levarburton dirty."
Richards also made headlines in the days leading up to the announcement. Amid reports that he was in the running to be named the next host, allegations of discrimination from when he worked on The Price Is Right surfaced.
In an internal memo sent to staffers obtained by CNN, he confirmed that he was in discussions about the Jeopardy! gig and addressed "complicated employment issues raised in the press during my time at The Price is Right 10 years ago."
Accusations of pregnancy discrimination arose in two complaints filed by former Price Is Right models from Richards' time serving as executive producer of The Price Is Right and Let's Make a Deal. Richards was not personally named in the lawsuits, which were filed against CBS and producer Fremantle Media.
"These were allegations made in employment disputes against the show," Richards wrote in the staff letter. "I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price Is Right."
How involved was he in the search for a new host?
Richards previously opened up about the search for Trebek's replacement during an appearance on The Wall Street Journal podcast in April, saying at that time that he "studied" the late host's time on the show to put together a job description for potential candidates.
He also noted that he and his team were hesitant to name someone right away, hence the various interim hosts.
"We were still reeling from the loss, and I mean the Jeopardy! family, which is the fans, the country, the staff," Richards said. "If on Friday it's Alex's last show and then Monday it's a new person's show, that would probably be unfair to the person stepping in to do it."
Though he was involved in the search for the next permanent host, he said Sony would make the final call.
"It's going to come down to the heads of Sony to make that decision, ultimately, and it will come down to testing, and they've been a part of it," he said. "They know what's going on in the studio, they're watching the feed, the tapings — it's very extensive, it's unlike anything I've ever been a part of in terms of testing in its size and scope. There's some look at social media, there's focus groups, there's all kinds of things that we will rely on."
He continued, "You want to make an informed decision — I mean in the end, we're a pretty cerebral group, the Jeopardy! team. We want to go at this with real analytics and real testing and not just go, 'Hey, how about this guy?'"
In his internal memo earlier this week, Richards also recognized the complicated search process and Trebek's contributions, saying, "I know I have mentioned this to you all before, but the choice on this is not my decision and never has been. Throughout this search, Sony's top priority has always been to continue the incredible legacy you and Alex built."
"As you know, Alex always believed the game itself and the contestants are the most important aspects of the show, and that will continue to be the guiding principle as the decision is finalized," he continued.
And in his statement Wednesday, Ravi Ahuja, Chairman of Global Television Studios and Corporate Development for Sony Pictures, said a "tremendous amount of work and deliberation" went into the decision.
"A senior group of Sony Pictures Television executives pored over footage from every episode, reviewed research from multiple panels and focus groups, and got valuable input from our key partners and Jeopardy! viewers," Ahuja continued. "We knew early on that we wanted to divide the hosting responsibilities and it became very clear that Mike and Mayim were the undeniable choices. They were both at the top of our research and analysis. Mike is a unique talent, at ease behind the podium and a double threat as producer and host. Mayim has a wonderful energy, an innate sense of the game, and an authentic curiosity that naturally represents the Jeopardy! brand."
What's his background on Jeopardy!?
Richards first joined Jeopardy! as the executive producer in 2020, though his ties to the show go way back.
"I very distinctly remember watching Jeopardy! at 10, 11 — and you don't get very many right when you watch Jeopardy! when you're that age," he said in an interview ahead of his guest-hosting gig earlier this year. "I remember telling my mom I wanted to get a subscription to The Wall Street Journal — I have no idea why, I thought that would make me smarter."
"Then we had the Encyclopedia Britannica, and I started to read them from A — that was the quickest way to get smart. If you knew everything in there, could you then be on Jeopardy!? The answer is probably yes," he continued. "I didn't get all the way through, full disclosure."
When did he guest host?
In February, Richards became the second candidate to guest host the show after former champion Ken Jennings concluded his run. During that week, he received overwhelming praise from viewers, though he admitted that his time at the podium was a "last-minute" decision.
"I stepped in to keep the show going because Ken had other duties. He's done a great job for us but he's been out promoting his ABC show The Chase, so he wasn't available," Richards previously said in his interview with producers.
He continued, "We were trying to book other celebrity hosts and a lot of people are dying to do it, but because of where we're shooting this and that [it's] the week after the first of the year, people were concerned, people were out of town, so the celebrities that will come were reticent to come in — and we had great contestants lined up, the staff and crew were teed up, we've all had our COVID tests, we're all here. Very literally at the last minute, the decision was made for me to step in and just keep the show going."
Earlier in the interview, Richards reflected on the long-running show and Trebek's legacy.
"Jeopardy! is an incredibly important American institution — it's about making people that are smart the most important people in the room, and I just think it's so important to keep that going and continue Alex's legacy," he said. "His ability to straddle that line of being super cool himself, super smart himself and everything that he was is really a part of this entire place, so it's very important to keep it going."
Has he hosted a game show before?
Richards has a long history of working on game shows. He was the second host of The WB's Beauty and the Geek and later helmed the 2012 revival of The Pyramid.
He also produced a variety of competition shows prior to his current role as the executive producer of Jeopardy! and its sister show, Wheel of Fortune.
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In 2008, he was named a co-executive producer of The Price Is Right before becoming the executive producer a year later. Also in 2009, he helped sell Let's Make a Deal to CBS, according to his bio on the Jeopardy! website.
Richards remained an executive producer on both shows for over a decade, during which time he earned 17 Daytime Emmy Award nominations and three wins. In 2020, he also served as an executive producer of the revival of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, alongside Jimmy Kimmel and Michael Davies.
The 38th season of Jeopardy!, with Richards as host, is set to premiere Sep. 13.