After Mike Richards quit his new gig a mere nine days after being announced successor to Alex Trebek, the iconic host of “Jeopardy!” who died in November of last year, fans were left in limbo. His decision to step down came after The Ringer revealed Mr. Richards’ past offensive and sexist remarks made years ago on a podcast.
It was the latest turn in a long saga, which began with Mr. Trebek’s cancer diagnosis, announced in March of last year, and death in November. To many fans, Mr. Trebek, with his erudite smirk and reserved manner, embodied the long-running show. They watched for months as guest hosts cycled in and out, part of a very public audition process. Now this?
With Mr. Richards gone, Mayim Bialik, will take on the regular hosting duties until another nightly host is announced. (Originally it was announced that Ms. Bialik would host only prime-time specials and Mr. Richards, an executive producer of “Jeopardy!,” would handle the show on a nightly basis.)
On Monday Sony, which produces the show, released a statement that said in part: “As we move forward with production on this season of ‘Jeopardy!,’ additional guest hosts will be announced.”
Like so many fandoms, “Jeopardy!” devotees are passionate and opinionated. The New York Times spoke with “Jeopardy!” fans about their love of the show, their thoughts on the current situation, and what they’d like to see from its next nightly host.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Adrian Brinkley, 32, creative strategist in publishing, New York City
What’s your history with “Jeopardy!”?
I’ve been watching since like the age of 10 or 11. We didn’t really have cable TV, and it came on right after the evening news. So, in the evenings, after school, once homework was done, and my mom was off work and cooking our dinner, it just became this like evening tradition, a routine.
And how much of that experience hinged on Alex’s presence?
To me, Alex is “Jeopardy!” When you think of Alex Trebek, you think of “Jeopardy!”
OK, so if you were a “Jeopardy!” producer, what would you do next?
If I had to name someone today, I truly feel like it should be Ken Jennings. Ken would not have been my first choice. Because to be the face of a show like “Jeopardy!” you need someone who’s personable and someone who’s charismatic, right? Ken is very smart, and he’s a great player but does he have the charisma to really carry the show in the same way that Alex did? What Alex did have was a passion for “Jeopardy!” — for the show, for the contestants, for the fans at home. That is such an important quality and trait and a host of “Jeopardy!”
Julie Lovenbury, 34, retail marketer, Seattle, Wash.
As the guest hosts were being rotated through, did you have any thoughts on the future of the show?
I definitely thought, ‘Well, Ken kind of makes sense.’ Because he’s like the other “Jeopardy!” figure that people know. Honestly, I thought about it so much. And I was just like, this would be a horrible decision to have to make.
Where do you think the producers should go from here?
I feel like it needs to be somebody out of left field. I’m not a “The Price Is Right” superfan so I don’t remember how people reacted when Bob Barker retired and Drew Carey came in. But I remember watching a couple episodes and being like, “Oh, it’s so weird that it’s Drew Carey.” And now it’s just, like, “Yeah, that’s Drew Carey.’” You just get used to it and it makes sense. So I honestly I will be fine with whoever they choose and I will continue to watch. Whoever they choose will be the Alex Trebek for someone else.
Rosa Gonzalez, 52, medical biller, Massapequa, NY
What made Alex such an important part of the Jeopardy experience?
Alex is — he’s one in a million. You know, everything’s so polarizing these days. He was very neutral. He was always Switzerland. Plus he was really quick, always with a quick-witted joke but when we had to be serious and get down to business, he did that. He was a class act — period. And we don’t really have that now.
Who do you think would have been a good replacement?
I wanted LeVar Burton to get the gig. All the way back to “Roots” I’ve watched him, and later on “Reading Rainbow.” I think he’s got that stable quality, but I think he was really nervous. It’s hard to step into those shoes, it’s like Vanna White, no one can touch those screens like Vanna White.
Aaron Rodgers did really well. But I don’t know if that’s the right fit. It would be great to get an unknown or a person of color, because that would help move the show forward. Think of what that would do for little kids, to see someone who looks like them hosting “Jeopardy.” Think what that would do for their hopes and aspirations.
Eliza Kaplan, 18, college student, Los Angeles, Calif.
How long have you been watching the show now?
I really started watching when I was like, really little, like elementary school. It was always on because it’s on at seven, so, around dinnertime. And I could never answer any questions. But now we just tape it and we usually watch it every night as a family. I like the interactivity, and how it’s never the same, you know?
What did you make of the news that Mike Richards and Mayim Biyalik would be replacing Alex?
Well, I felt like the point of the guest hosts was that they were trying to promote diversity. And they ended up picking a very vanilla option. Another white man doesn’t reflect the contestants very well, especially now. And I think they also should have done a better job of vetting him before they announced it, it felt a little sloppy.
Leigh Hoopes, 36, marketer, Cincinnati, Ohio
When did you start watching “Jeopardy!”?
I literally do not remember a time in my life where I didn’t watch “Jeopardy!”. I used to stay a lot with my grandparents when I was little, during the summers because my parents worked. And I would watch it every single week night that I was there with my grandmother. We had dinner — or supper, as they called it — and then everybody took their baths, and then it was time for “Jeopardy!”.
You were a contestant on the show, tell me about that.
It was seven years ago. So I’d been trying to get on for years — it was one of my bucket list items, and my other bucket list item was to win, and I didn’t win. But I gave the reigning guy a run for his money, at least. You know, when people ask about it they say, ‘Was Alex a jerk?’ I’m like, ‘No, he was an extremely nice, cool, dude.’ For me, he is somebody who … he had the answers, but he didn’t act like he knew everything. He was willing to double-check and he would rerecord things that he didn’t feel he pronounced properly. I don’t want to say that I consider him a member of the family, but maybe like, a cool uncle, or like a librarian. Somebody who was a keeper of knowledge, but not a gatekeeper.
So where do you think the producers should go from here?
Is there even a need for a full-time host? No one truly will ever be able to replace Alex. I don’t even know if it’s worth trying.
Tony Mittica, 33, barber, Beaver, Pa.
What did you think when they announced Mike Richards as the replacement?
I thought it was a bizarre choice. I didn’t love the idea that he was basically just an unknown person. And being the executive producer, it was almost like, ‘Oh, let’s just see whoever we have, like laying around the building.’ And then after hearing what came out, it’s just another classic case of a privileged white man who, you know, gets everything that he wants.
Looking back, what characteristics made Alex good as a host?
That impression of, of intelligence. The thing that was cool about Alex was that he wasn’t like your classic tacky game show host. That block in the evening was always “Jeopardy!” followed by “Wheel of Fortune” and I hated “Wheel of Fortune.”
Ethan Brosowsky, 40, food entrepreneur, Los Angeles
You were a contestant on the show — a champion, I should add. What do you remember about interacting with Alex?
They tell contestants to come in with several stories, for the kibitzing with Alex. At the time, I was a young filmmaker working on a documentary about curling in America — the sport. I thought it would be funny because curling is obscure. Since he was Canadian, he knew all about curling and fired back very rapidly, about the pedaling and how the ice is made. I remember feeling a little taken back, like, that was completely off the cuff, he couldn’t possibly know what we were going to talk about. If you even look back at my episode, I look surprised and pleased that Alex and I just had a real genuine interaction about something.
What are your thoughts on where they should go now, for a host?
I would have hoped that they’d at very least entertain, seriously, Alex’s chosen heir apparent, which is that female reporter from CNN. Why was she not a guest host? Like, how is that possible?
Essence Rogers, 27, pharmaceutical advertiser, Long Island, N.Y.
As a longtime “Jeopardy!” fan, what’s your relationship to Alex?
He always seemed immortal, like, I thought he was going to outlive me. And then when he passed, I thought, ‘What’s going to happen?’ Because no one could replace him.
So did you watch all the guest hosts?
Only LeVar. Because I didn’t care about anybody else. To be honest, I thought he was the only one who had the credentials, who had the experience. This is because Alex Trebek, I didn’t know life without him. And that’s how I feel about LeVar Burton. “Star Trek,” “Reading Rainbow,” “Roots.” Yeah, I don’t know life without LeVar. It just made sense. And he’s a class act. He’s like class, personified. So it made sense for him to just pick up where Alex had left off. And even when I watched the episodes, it just seemed like such a smooth transition.
What qualities are you going to want from the next host?
My main concern is who is going to carry the torch for now? And honestly, at the moment, I’m kind of discouraged. This is my childhood we’re talking about. Whoever they choose has to be a cultural icon, right? You have to be somebody that people look up to, that people look to for information. You have to be a salve when times are hard. You have to be all those things.
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