Mike Richards out as Jeopardy executive producer
It's game over for Mike Richards at Jeopardy. The embattled executive producer of the quiz show, and of Wheel of Fortune, has departed his role at both game shows, concluding a spectacular rise and fall that plunged one of America's most beloved TV institutions into behind-the-scenes chaos.
The decision was announced Tuesday morning via a memo from Suzanne Prete, executive vice president of business and strategy for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, which was obtained by EW.
"I'm writing to let you know that Mike will no longer be serving as EP of Wheel and Jeopardy effective immediately," Prete wrote. "We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened."
Michael Davies of production company Embassy Row will be replacing Richards on an interim basis until further notice.
"I know this has been a challenging time for the entire team, and I want to thank you all for your cooperation and professionalism over these last few weeks," Prete continued.
Richards' departure as EP comes after the Aug. 20 announcement that he stepped down as host of Jeopardy amid scandals over his conduct at the show, past offensive remarks on a podcast, and involvement in discrimination lawsuits while executive producing The Price Is Right. Jeopardy studio Sony Pictures Television had previously indicated Richards would stay on as EP, despite reports of an awkward environment on the Jeopardy set.
Richards took over Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune as executive producer in 2020 after the shows' longtime EP Harry Friedman retired. He presided over a tumultuous period at Jeopardy, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as beloved host Alex Trebek's illness and eventual death from pancreatic cancer. After a rotating series of guest hosts following Trebek's death, Richards was announced as the new permanent host in August, having previously guest-hosted the show for two weeks.
He stepped down as host just over a week later, however, after an explosive report by The Ringer revealed inappropriate comments Richards made about women, Jewish people, people with mental disabilities, and others on a podcast he hosted from 2013 to 2014 called The Randumb Show. Richards apologized for the comments, saying in a statement, "It is humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago. Looking back now, there is no excuse, of course, for the comments I made on this podcast and I am deeply sorry."
Nevertheless, he resigned from hosting Jeopardy two days later, telling the show's staff in a memo 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 still serve as host for a week's worth of episodes at the start of the quiz show's new season, taped during the single day of production Richards spent as Jeopardy's permanent host. Mayim Bialik, the newly tapped host of Jeopardy's prime-time specials and spin-offs, will host the syndicated show in the following weeks.
Pushback to Richards' appointment began before the podcast comments were surfaced — indeed, even before he was officially announced as host. When news broke that he was the frontrunner to replace Trebek, details of Richards' alleged treatment of a Price Is Right model from a past discrimination lawsuit quickly resurfaced online. In 2010, model Brandi Cochran sued CBS and the show's producer FremantleMedia, alleging in her complaint that Richards and other producers discriminated against her due to her pregnancy. She claimed that, with relation to her situation, Richards said, "Go figure, I fire five models. What are the odds one of the ones that I keep gets pregnant?" She subsequently won the suit and more than $7 million in damages, though the decision was overturned in 2013 and the case later settled.
Richards also addressed these allegations in a memo to the Jeopardy staff, stating, "The way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price Is Right."
Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings is now reportedly a frontrunner to take over as host, according to both CNN's Brian Stelter and former The Hollywood Reporter editor Matthew Belloni. Jennings was the first guest host on the show after Trebek's death in November. In the meantime, Jeopardy will resume a rotating lineup of temporary hosts following Bialik.
Jeopardy's 38th season premieres Monday, Sept. 13, with record-breaking champion Matt Amodio returning.
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