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Ken Jennings And Mike Richards Weigh in on Jeopardy! Host Decision Process

Ken Jennings and Mike Richards

In case anyone didn't realize Jeopardy! fans are passionate about the show, recent news has set them straight. Fans have been vocal about the selection of executive producer Mike Richards as the new host, in part due to debates over his versus other candidates' suitability. Discussion also abounds about a lawsuit he was involved in while showrunner at The Price is Right. The New York Times delved into reactions to the news.

Richards explained that fans care deeply about the show and those involved with it. He stated:

It is a little like choosing a pope. If you don’t watch ‘Jeopardy!,’ you don’t understand, but people take this very seriously.

Guest host, consulting producer, and former champion contestant Ken Jennings added:

Mike was the only person up there with any game show hosting chops, and it showed.

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Late host Alex Trebek reportedly earned about $16.5 million by the end of his tenure. Those familiar with salary discussions for Richards said that the new host's compensation will be "considerably less." Richards was in the running to host The Price is Right; though he lost out on that gig to Drew Carey, he successfully helmed the show, serving as executive producer for 11 years. 

The Times reported that Richards and Trebek only overlapped by about 15 days of shooting, ten days before Trebek's passing. Sony told the newspaper that, though Richards initially led the search for the new host, he stepped aside once he was in the running. The final decision was made by Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Tony Vinciquerra.

But insiders told the Times that Richards wasn't entirely hands-off during the hunt. The publication stated:

But as executive producer, Mr. Richards retained a key role in selecting which appearances by each prospective host would be screened for focus groups, whose reactions weighed heavily in Sony’s decision-making, according to three people familiar with the show’s internal deliberations. The other supervising 'Jeopardy!' producers were excluded from that process, the people said.

Jennings said he was fine with the fact he wasn't chosen as host. He explained:

I knew ‘Jeopardy!’ was in a spot this year, and I mostly wanted them to have a smooth transition. I was not going to lobby for that job in the media, ever. I was not going to plant stories about what a promising young candidate I was. I wasn’t interested in doing any of that. I am a company man.

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