Multiple outlets reported a new, though not unexpected chapter in the ongoing Jeopardy Drama and their newly-named emcee.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Jeopardy! I get that it’s a great, beloved show. It’s a great format. But it was just never my cup of tea. Still, the behind-the-scenes Jeopardy drama playing out now might be at least as interesting at the daily show itself.
Executive Producer Mike Richards was just named the new host of the program last week. But he just confirmed he is stepping aside as host and a search for a new host will resume.
Richards beat out a slew of guest hosts
One of those guest hosts was actor LeVar Burton, a popular favorite. Fans even created a petition to get Burton a chance at a guest slot. The show took far longer, it seemed to me, than it should have to announce that Burton would, indeed, get a shot.
Richards filled in for two weeks before the guest host rotation began. At that point, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, some expressed hesitation about returning to the studio. But Richards, feeling that “the show must go on,” stepped in for an initial two-week gig until the guest hosts could start taking their weeks at the helm.
He was largely lauded initially for his handling of the show. But even as some praise came in, people knew that the parade of guests were coming and that said parade would serve as auditions.
Richards’ selection took fans by surprise, especially members of “Team LeVar.”
First signs of trouble came from ‘Price is Right’ lawsuits
Prior to taking over executive producer duties for Jeopardy! and its sister show, Wheel of Fortune, Richards served as executive producer for The Price is Right and its sister show, Let’s Make a Deal.
During his tenure at ‘Price,’ he was named in two discrimination lawsuits brought by models with the show. One of the two suits was settled out of court. A judge removed him as a defendant in the second.
Whether he was guilty of discrimination or not, that determination never came in a courtroom. But as is often the case, the accusation itself can serve as an indication of guilt. (Even though we do still have the concept of innocent until proven guilty.)
Richards spoke up about the lawsuits in a note to his staff: “I want you all to know that 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.”
Fans of the show — or any other specific hosting candidate — didn’t seem to care one way or the other.
New trouble came from an old podcast
While people debated the current relevance of the lawsuits at this distance, others brought up comments Richards allegedly made in an old podcast.
In 2013 and 2014, Richards hosted a podcast called The Randumb Show, an obvious play on the word random. I’ve only heard a few clips from the podcast, which he billed as a behind-the-scenes look at ‘Price.’ The clips I listened to featured interview segments with Bob Barker, who hosted The Price is Right for 35 years before retiring in 2007. Barker talked about his early days in television. He talked about the difference between “game shows” and “audience participation shows.” There was even talk about his time hosting Truth or Consequences, his first national show.
But The Ringer ran a report about other areas of content in Richards’ show that didn’t include Barker. The report alleged that Richards made disparaging comments about women, Jews and poor people. You can read about multiple examples the report cites after listening to all 41 episodes of the podcast.
I never listened. So I have no idea what was or wasn’t said.
But the report stated that when it inquired about the concerning content, Richards had all 41 episodes removed from the internet.
He sent a statement to The Ringer that read in part:
Looking back now, there is no excuse, of course, for the comments I made on this podcast and I am deeply sorry.
Read the full statement as reported here.
When does an apology become ‘enough’?
I saw commentary online about Richards’ apology not going far enough because it didn’t acknowledge every specific offense. Some of the vitriol over the vitriol left me wondering if Richards going line by line would have satisfied them.
We’ve long heard the notion that “freedom of speech” does not mean freedom from consequences of speaking freely.
We seem to be seeing that play out more dramatically than ever these days, and I don’t mean just in this Jeopardy drama.
No apology seems enough. How do we know how much someone actually means to apologize? Some clearly think they can gauge another’s level of sincerity beyond a reasonable doubt.
It’s regrettable anyone made such comments to begin with. But it strikes me as regrettable that one can’t apologize and have their apology regarded, even for a second, as genuine.
Guilty now seems to be guilty forever beyond redemption.
I don’t know that this is fair at all.
Understand: I don’t have a dog in this hunt.
As I said at the top, Jeopardy is not my cup of tea. As phenomenal as Alex Trebek was as a host and as perfect a fit as he was for that particular show — the way The Price is Right fit Barker and the way Match Game fit the late Gene Rayburn — Jeopardy just wasn’t a show I ever tuned in to watch.
No matter who they name as a new host, I don’t anticipate I’d watch anymore than I did with the great Trebek there.
Who they select has no real bearing at all on my TV viewing habits.
But it seems to me that at some point, we as a society need to set aside our outrage and anger and think about our sins of the past. When is an apology actually enough?
What will it take for the world to forgive some mistake you’ve made in the past that suddenly comes to light?
We all make mistakes. Maybe, if we’re lucky, some mistake we made won’t come back to bite us.
But often, mistakes we make help us grow. They help us learn.
If we’re lucky, our apologies are the first step in growing and learning, not the last.
If we’re lucky, when we get called on the carpet about some past offense we’ve made, we’ll know just how much crow we’ll need to eat before we can actually make amends.