Did This Awkward ‘Jeopardy!’ Encounter Doom Mike Richards Hosting Chances for Good?

Mike Richards’ short-lived stint as the host of Jeopardy! was marred by an awkward encounter with former champion Ken Jennings. In hindsight, some commenters are wondering if Richards’ behind-the-scenes treatment of Jennings contributed to his hasty resignation from the game show. The search for a permanent Jeopardy! host is back on.

Richards was chosen as the new permanent host of Jeopardy! this month, but he only got a chance for one days’ worth of taping before the dream was over. According to a new report by The New York Times, Richards had a full day of recording for next season on Thursday, starting with a ceremony where the studio was renamed in honor of the late host Alex Trebek. Jennings and former champion Buzzy Cohen were both invited to attend this ceremony and expected to stick around for the rest of the taping. However, they were reportedly escorted away from the sound stage and into a green room, where they were allowed to watch the taping from a closed feed.

(Photo: Daytime Emmy Awards 2021 via Getty Images, Getty)

Sources close to the production told reporters that Richards had asked for Jennings and Cohen to be ushered out, saying he was too nervous to have them in the studio on his first day as permanent host. Both Jennings and Cohen were among this year’s guest hosts and were therefore under consideration for the permanent hosting job.

One of the insiders compared this sleight to “inviting Joe DiMaggio back to Yankee Stadium and then not letting him in the dugout.” It was apparently regarded as a social and professional faux pas by just about everyone. Some commenters are speculating that it factored into Richards’ resignation less than 24 hours later.

In a memo issued to the show’s staff, Richards stated officially that “moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show.” He will reportedly stay on as an executive producer, but fans’ reaction to him as host has been too fierce for him to ignore. Sony Pictures Television has not announced who will replace Richards as the permanent host of the regular series now.

As for Jennings, he told The Times that Jeopardy!’s “appeal is its reliability and timelessness.” He continued: “It’s one of the last pure things in a troubled age. And I hate that something pure like that has to be sullied by backstage drama.”

Jennings will continue to serve as a consulting producer on Jeopardy!, and actress Mayim Bialik will host the spinoff series and special event episodes. There is no word on who will host the syndicated show now that Richards has stepped down.

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