Mike Richards, executive producer of Jeopardy!, is a leading candidate to become the next permanent host of the long-running syndicated game show, Variety reported Wednesday, although conversations with several potential permanent hosts are ongoing.
A spokeswoman for Sony Pictures Television declined comment.
Richards joined the show in September 2020 when Harry Friedman retired from running both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune after 11 years of doing both jobs. Just two months later, Alex Trebek, who had hosted the show since its entrance into syndication in 1984, died at the age of 80 after a bout with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Richards, who has extensive game and reality hosting experience, was the second guest host to fill Trebek's shoes after Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time Ken Jennings spent six weeks in the role from Jan. 11 to Feb. 19.
Richards has had a long relationship with Jeopardy!’s production company, Sony Pictures Television, for whom he hosted game shows Divided and The Pyramid for SPT-owned cable network GSN. He also executive produced the celebrity edition of ABC’s Who Wants To Be a Millionaire for SPT.
Richards has also served as host of The WB’s High School Reunion and The CW’s Beauty and the Geek. In 2008, he became co-executive producer of CBS’ The Price Is Right, which is hosted by Drew Carey and produced by Fremantle. In 2009, he became that show’s executive producer and also sold a revival of Let’s Make a Deal, also produced by Fremantle and hosted by Wayne Brady, to CBS.
Many guest hosts have taken a turn at the podium this year, including current host LeVar Burton, who has been actively campaigning for the job for years. Other guest hosts have included The Big Bang Theory and Call Me Kat’s Mayim Bialik, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Today’s Savannah Guthrie, Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts and many more.
In an interview with B&C/Multichannel News in May, Richards waved away the question of his taking over as host.
“We are going to look at everyone and consider the data and analytics, testing and focus groups and ultimately who we think the correct person is in the long term. My role is not to choose the person, my role is to make everyone as great as they can be in the role," said Richards. "Look at how Aaron was received or how [CNN’s] Anderson [Cooper] has been received — our production and producers are doing a very good job of giving them great looks. That’s the goal: Make everyone look great. Ultimately, the team at Sony will decide what they think is the right thing for the show.
"We aren’t looking for a three-year host, we’re looking for a 10-year or a 20-year host. Stability is one of the show’s strengths, so we need to consider who’s got a 20-year horizon and who can focus on the show and make it great over that time.
"As for me hosting, I was never meant to be a part of that process — I was just meant to manage — but COVID had other plans. Sony will ask me how people are in the studio and how their days on set went so I will be part of that conversation but there’s a bigger group of stakeholders who will weigh in. My job is really to make everyone really good at this. The shoot days are brutal, because teaching someone the show is intense. We give everything we can to them to let them shine and then we serve it up."
In that interview, Richards also said a new host would be chosen by the end of July or early August.
“By the end of July or early August, we will have a permanent host in place. Some of the episodes won’t have aired before we make this decision, but we’ve already been doing lots of research on all of the guest hosts,” he said.
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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.