Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards is still working hard to find the show's new host after Alex Trebek's passing last year. He shed some light in a chat with Broadcasting + Cable on what he wants in a candidate.
What are Richards (who himself served as guest host) and ABC looking for?
If you aren’t a great broadcaster, don’t have a great voice, aren’t a great arbiter of the game, then being funny doesn’t matter, but it definitely is an important part. I always think that a great host in some way reflects the audience and is looked at to say, ‘Wow, that was amazing.’ The host’s job is to heighten the moment, increase the tension, lighten the mood — their job is to reflect the audience’s mood and heighten the experience. This is not someone who is necessarily going head to head with the contestants. It’s someone who lets the contestants shine and in letting them shine, they shine.
I grew up watching Johnny Carson; that is an important thing to look at. Alex was brilliant at it. [Alex] was never introduced as the star of Jeopardy!, he was always the host of Jeopardy! That is such a representation of the mentality of our show and of him. It’s the contestants who are the celebrities. The whole machine is built around them.
We are going to look at everyone and consider the data and analytics, testing and focus groups and ultimately who we think the correct person is in the long term. My role is not to choose the person, my role is to make everyone as great as they can be in the role. Look at how Aaron [Rodgers] was received or how [CNN’s] Anderson [Cooper] has been received — our production and producers are doing a very good job of giving them great looks. That’s the goal: Make everyone look great. Ultimately, the team at Sony will decide what they think is the right thing for the show.
We aren’t looking for a three-year host, we’re looking for a 10-year or a 20-year host. Stability is one of the show’s strengths, so we need to consider who’s got a 20-year horizon and who can focus on the show and make it great over that time.
When will a new host be locked down for Season 38? Richards said:
By the end of July or early August, we will have a permanent host in place. Some of the episodes won’t have aired before we make this decision, but we’ve already been doing lots of research on all of the guest hosts.