The search for a successor to late “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek has been a rocky one, culminating August 20 in executive producer Mike Richards’ resignation from the post. An executive producer on the series, Richards stepped down as host after numerous past scandals resurfaced including a harassment lawsuit and derogatory remarks he made on the podcast “The Randumb Show.” According to a new report out of The New York Times (via Uproxx), an awkward encounter on the set between Richards and “Jeopardy!” MVP Ken Jennings, who hosted the series in early 2021, checkered Richards’ final moments on the production.
The taping for Season 38 took place on Thursday, kicking off with a ceremony prior to honor Trebek and featuring Jennings and fellow former contestant Buzzy Cohen. Per the Times:
A group of “Jeopardy!” loyalists had gathered for a ceremony to rename the show’s studio after Mr. Trebek, including Mr. Trebek’s widow, his children and Anthony Vinciquerra, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s chief executive. Mr. Richards and Ms. Bialik were there, along with two of the other contenders for the hosting job, the former contestants Buzzy Cohen and Ken Jennings, according to three people familiar with the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Afterward, the people said, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Jennings had expected to attend Mr. Richards’s debut taping. Instead, they were escorted from the sound stage to a nearby green room, where they watched the taping over a closed feed. They were told that Mr. Richards was too nervous to have them in the studio, the people said.
One of the people likened it to inviting Joe DiMaggio back to Yankee Stadium and then not letting him in the dugout.
The story states that Sony attributed the former contestants’ relegation to the green room to coronavirus procedures, limiting the number of people in the room. But the anecdote doesn’t help Richards’ case as a potential host who brought tensions to the “Jeopardy!” set.
In a memo to staffers on Friday, Richards wrote, “As I mentioned last week, I was deeply honored to be asked to host the syndicated show and was thrilled by the opportunity to expand my role. However, over the last several days it has become clear that moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show. As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately. As a result, we will be canceling production today.”