“Jeopardy!” has been on television since 1984 and has rarely seen scandal in the decades since then.
However, the show’s history was recently marred by controversy when the search for a replacement for late host Alex Trebek led the show to hire executive producer Mike Richards before he was ultimately ousted from the role.
The saga isn’t quite over yet, as “Jeopardy!” is still looking for someone to serve as a permanent host now that Richards’ short tenure of only five episodes has ended.
From Trebek’s tragic passing to today, here’s a timeline of the drama behind-the-scenes at “Jeopardy!”
After a years-long battle with pancreatic cancer, Trebek passed away on Nov. 8, 2020.
A beloved fixture of American entertainment, the star’s passing devastated those involved in the television industry, as well as fans of the show, as he was still serving as the host of the popular game show.
Immediately after his death, questions arose about how the show will move forward.
Some game shows film in advance, and Trebek had taped several months’ worth of episodes before his passing.
His final episode aired in early January 2021, and while the show had announced their plans to have guest hosts fill in until a replacement was named, the show’s future was unclear.
A week later, on Jan. 11, 2021, famed “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings served as the first of several guest hosts.
After a long guest-hosting stint from Jennings, it was time to move on and allow someone else to take the wheel.
First up was Richards, who was working as an executive producer on both “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.”
In the coming months, the team behind “Jeopardy!” had the difficult task of finding a replacement for one of television’s most beloved icons.
In an effort to buy time – and possibly to audition possible contenders – the show elected to employ guest hosts to take over while they searched. Outside of Jennings and Richards, several other celebrities and industry figures took on hosting duties.
Katie Couric followed Richards, while stars like Aaron Rodgers, LeVar Burton, Joe Buck, Robin Roberts, Mayim Bialik and more took a turn at the helm.
After searching for months, “Jeopardy!” announced that they’d finally found Trebek’s permanent replacements.
The show announced that Richards would take over the primary show while Bialik would host special spin-off events such as “Jeopardy! National College Championship.”
Despite the show’s confidence in Richards, his casting was dragged online by fans and questions of the casting process arose considering Richards would have been privy to parts of it. Sony, the studio behind the show, has maintained that his role as a producer had nothing to do with his casting.
Bialik largely managed to avoid the backlash.
Not long after his casting was announced, several scandals in Richards’ past bubbled to the surface.
Among them were a handful of comments he made during a podcast several years before that were deemed sexist. He had also previously been named as a defendant in multiple discrimination lawsuits filed during his 10-year run as executive producer of the “The Price Is Right,” per Variety.
Such scandals caused an uproar among fans of the show, as well as those invested in the search for a new host.
Within days of announcing his casting, Richards stepped down from his new role as host.
When he announced his departure, Richards said that his past had become a “distraction” for the fans and said that him remaining host was “not the right move for the show.”
The quick turnaround surprised people keeping tabs on the situation, especially since it seemed “Jeopardy!” was back at square one as they resumed the search for a permanent host.
“Jeopardy!” found themselves in a tough spot once again after Richards filmed only five episodes as host before stepping down.
Luckily, the studio called on Bialik for help, and she agreed to guest host for a time while executives figured out a game plan for finding a new host.
After announcing that he would not host “Jeopardy!,” questions arose regarding Richards’ position as an executive producer on the show.
Such questions were answered in an Aug. 25, 2020 article from the New York Times, in which it was reported that Sony’s top television executive, Ravi Ahuja, confirmed to colleagues that Richards would not lose his behind-the-scenes gig.
It was also revealed that Richards would take sensitivity training.
When the tension and controversy over Richards’ involvement with “Jeopardy!” did not dissipate after he stepped down as host, the decision was made to end his relationship with Sony entirely.
On Aug. 31, 2021, it was announced that Richards would no longer work as an executive producer on “Jeopardy!” or “Wheel of Fortune.”
“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,” a note from Sony brass said to staffers said at the time. “That clearly has not happened.”
Before stepping down as host, Richards filmed five episodes of “Jeopardy!” – about a day’s worth of work.
His first episode as permanent host aired on Sept. 13 and fans took to Twitter to voice their discomfort with the situation.
His final episode as host aired on Sept. 17, while the last episode that saw him serve as executive producer aired on Sept. 20.
With the fall television season approaching with a lineup that includes Bialik’s sitcom “Call Me Kat,” it was clear that “Jeopardy!” would need to call in some backup to help out with hosting duties.
On Sept. 16, the show announced that Jennings would once again return to tag team the gig and switch off with the actress when their schedules allowed.
Meanwhile, the search for a third permanent host is no doubt underway, though reports suggest that Bialik and “Jeopardy!” have a mutual interest in her taking over full-time.