Newly-announced Jeopardy! host Mike Richards is the subject of a new exposé from The Ringer. In the in-depth report, Richards was revealed to be a man who allegedly influenced and interfered in the selection of hosts.
Sources told The Ringer that Jeopardy! staffers were "blindsided" by the news of Richards' appointment, adding that morale on the show declined with him as EP. Interviews with employees of shows Richards has worked on indicated that Richards always had ambitions of moving in front of the camera eventually. When Alex Trebek died and some long-term employees departed, things changed. An insider said:
While previously Jeopardy! seemed to be its own island, under Mike the hand of Sony seems ever present.
How much influence did Richards have over himself being made a guest host and then the eventual permanent host? The Ringer said he inserted himself into the lineup and quoted reports from The New York Times stating that Richards was not part of the selection process after he was considered to be a host. However, Richards himself chose which episodes would be sent to focus groups for review, leaving two supervising producers out of the loop.
He reportedly controlled most things about the latest season of the game show, creating conflicts of interest. A source told the site:
He was the one rehearsing and giving direction to all the guest hosts, who may not have realized they were competing with him for the job. He could influence the promotion of those shows and the respective guest hosts. He had personal relationships with the executives involved, who had entrusted the show to him a year before.
Questions have been raised over how two guest hosts, Ken Jennings and LeVar Burton, were treated. Burton was only given one week's worth of episodes to host, filmed in just one day, as opposed to the two weeks' worth for most other candidates, and these episodes aired during the Olympics, meaning some were pre-empted, meaning ratings were low. Burton declined to comment.
Many also believed former champion contestant Jennings was a leading contender for the role. A consulting producer, Jennings taped six weeks' worth of episodes with him as guest host; when a conflict with his filming schedule arose, Richards apparently stepped in and insisted that he host, even though Jeopardy! could accommodate Jennings.
While working behind the scenes of Let's Make a Deal, Richards reportedly wanted to be eventual Jeopardy! host even then. After he was announced as Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune EP in 2019, a former LMAD employee recalled a supervisor who once worked with Richards quipping:
I bet he hires himself.