LOS ANGELES (AP) – Mike Richards came out as executive producer of “Jeopardy!” Days after it was released as the newly appointed quiz host due to misogynistic and derogatory comments.
Richards is also no longer the executive producer of “Wheel of Fortune,” according to a memo to staff that has been confirmed by Sony Pictures Television, which produces both shows.
“We had hoped for it when Mike left the Jeopardy host position!” it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties that we have all experienced in recent weeks. That clearly didn’t happen, ”said Suzanne Prete, a game show executive, in the memo.
The mismatch between Richards’ decision to step down as host on August 20 and Sony’s announcement on Tuesday was filled with speculation as to why the studio was keeping him. “Danger!” fans have called it inappropriate for the revered show, and there have been reports of staff dissatisfaction.
“Richards has been seen as damaged goods from the time the scandal broke,” said Eden Gillott, crisis public relations expert, referring to Richards’ remarks on the podcast. “It’s surprising that Sony kept Richards as an executive producer for as long as he did.”
In her memo, Prete said she would work with Richards’ interim replacement, Michael Davies, until further notice. Davies produces ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
James Holzhauer, a “Jeopardy! Champion who mocked Richards when he left the host post, weighed in on Tuesday.
“Do I think Mike Richards’ podcast comments were appropriate for a polite society?” No. But did he deserve the benefit of the doubt for the work he did with Jeopardy? No either, ”Holzhauer tweeted.
Richards’ short-lived era caught the attention of comedian and television host W. Kamau Bell (CNN “United Shades of America”).
“I really want the ‘Tiger King’ style documentary on all of this,” Bell posted on Twitter.
Richards had signed a global development agreement with Sony in 2019 and was announced as executive producer of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” in May 2020.
It quickly became controversial when he stepped backstage at Sony’s choice to host “Jeopardy!” – even before his 2013-14 podcast comments degrading women and making stereotypical remarks about Asians, Jews and others do not surface.
Anointing Richards as the successor to admired Alex Trebek was a questionable choice for some, especially since the studio had conducted a resounding search with guest hosts that included actors, sports figures, journalists – and Richards.
Questions were asked whether Richards had put the finger on the scales in his favor and if he had the gravity seen in other contestants, such as fan favorite LeVar Burton. The decision to bypass a person of color or a woman for the flagship show was also criticized, although guest host Mayim Bialik was named host for “Jeopardy!” specials.
The episodes Richards recorded during his short tenure as host are expected to air when the show returns for its 38th season starting September 13; a rerun with a backup host would be a slap in the face for the contestants and further undermine the show.
Richards largely had games and reality shows on his resume, but “Jeopardy!” is widely regarded as something more: a competition which adheres to civility and is won on the basis of knowledge, and which has long been run by the worthy Trebek. He died in November 2020 at the age of 80, shortly after recording his last shows.
Richards’ comments on his podcast “The Randumb Show” were reported by The Ringer’s website, and the fury that followed prompted him to announce that staying as a host would be “too much of a distraction for. our fans “and bad for the show.
On the podcast, Richards used derogatory and coarse language about women and their bodies and disparaged the homeless, among others.
Renewed attention was also paid to Richards and his tenure as producer in 2009-2018 on “The Price is Right”. Several lawsuits had been filed by former models against the show, alleging discriminatory behavior, including one that named Richards. He would have been excluded from it before an agreement was reached.
When Richards stepped down as host, Sony said the podcasts and their content was a surprise, promising to keep him at a level of “professionalism and respect” as a producer.
That Sony didn’t properly review Richards early on was unbearable, said Gillott, president of Gillott Communications.
The studio “created a stir within the organization because it did not ask the right questions in its search for a host, hesitated to respond to the controversy and did not sever all ties quickly”, she declared.
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