‘Jeopardy!’ was the last pure thing on TV. Its new hosts are the nail in the coffin.


Sony Pictures announced Wednesday that its new, permanent hosts would be “Jeopardy!” producer Mike Richards and actress Mayim Bialik. Richards will host the regular game show episodes, while Bialik will host the primetime specials and a new spin-off series. 

But let’s be clear: No one wants this. This was Final Jeopardy, and the show failed to win its bet. 

“Jeopardy!” was supposed to be pure, the “classiest show on TV,” as PopCulture.com called it. It was built on facts and knowledge, and the late Alex Trebek was the perfect host. “Jeopardy!” is a show where trivia nerds could become superstars — just look at Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter, the greatest-of-all-time champions who are now all on “The Chase” — simply because they could command obscure and well-known facts to win big. And in a country with a real anti-intellectual streak that consistently celebrates stupidity, “Jeopardy!” was an absolute breath of fresh air. 

Trebek embodied that respectful celebration of knowledge, and it is what many “Jeopardy!” fans were hoping for in a new host. That’s what the producers forgot when so many viewers petitioned for LeVar Burton, who had been part of our lives with “Reading Rainbow.” Although Burton turned in a poor performance as host when, sadly, nerves overcame him, there is no denying that viewers could trust that he cared about knowledge. 

That’s not the impression that anyone has with Richards. He was an OK host who notably lacked empathy for contestants, something that was a real strength with former contestants-turned-hosts like Jennings and Buzzy Cohen. But now, the overwhelming impression that we have of him is that he is the “Dick Cheney of ‘Jeopardy!’”  

How did Richards get what was easily one of the most sought-after jobs in television, one that had everyone from Burton to NFL star Aaron Rodgers saying they’d love to get the gig? Well, it helps to be someone like Richards, the executive producer of the show, who was in charge of the search for the next permanent host. And against guest hosts who performed better or had greater star power or would have expanded “Jeopardy’s” audience, he chose … himself.  

Bialik was likeable and charming in her turn as a guest host, and she holds a doctorate in neuroscience. No one can say that she is anti-intellectual, despite her tendency to giggle at even the more serious clues. She has also come under fire for her reportedly anti-vax stance, though since that time, she has confirmed that she and her sons are vaccinated against COVID-19.

But whatever her strengths or weaknesses are as a host, her inclusion in this decision feels like a sop to complaints in choosing Richards. 

Splitting the hosting duties is a cynical corporate move that is meant to appease fans who were upset when the news that Richards would be the permanent host was leaked to Variety last week. Not only was he not fan-favorite LeVar Burton, further backlash came as Twitter users unearthed his involvement in past harassment and discrimination lawsuits from his time as the executive producer on “The Price is Right.” 

It’s hard to believe that the powers at Sony Pictures and “Jeopardy!” looked at the panorama of guest hosts — weighed and considered folks like Jennings, Rodgers and Burton — and decided that the best ones out of a highly competitive field were Richards and Bialik. Now, it seems like it was all for show. In playing it safe by choosing the most boring options, one that smacks of voting for those with the most “electability,” it has only pissed many fans off. 

I am not opposed to changing things up after Trebek’s passing. There was a real opportunity here to take the show in a new direction, one that would expand “Jeopardy’s” audience and contestant pool, which tend to be white despite some notable exceptions. You can see this glaring disparity, especially compared against game shows like “Family Feud,” which under host Steve Harvey has become one of the most diverse shows on television. “Family Feud” can be criticized for many things, but diversity isn’t one of them: It is the only place where you can regularly see white, Black, Asian, Native Hawaiian and Middle Eastern families, reflecting the diversity of America back to its audience. 

Trebek himself had publicly stated that he hoped CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, who happens to be a Black woman, would succeed him. At the very least, with a Black host, we might have been spared the embarrassment of contestants bombing categories like “African-American women” on national television. But as the Associated Press pointed out, “The studio didn’t break the game-show mold by choosing Richards. White male hosts have long been the convention, with a few women (among them Meredith Vieira, Jane Lynch, Leslie Jones) and a larger contingent of Black men (Wayne Brady, Steve Harvey, Anthony Anderson) making inroads in recent years.”

“Jeopardy!” was the last pure thing on TV, but its new hosts are the nail in the coffin. The whole guest host process — which Richards claimed was a public audition for the permanent host role — and this cynical corporate decision have tarnished “Jeopardy!” and its reputation, cheapening it to a reality show that dragged on and on. In this unseemly audition process with a foregone conclusion, “Jeopardy!” has wasted that vast pool of goodwill that Trebek built with viewers. 

It has certainly wasted mine. I have long organized my schedule to include Alex Trebek’s “Jeopardy!” in my life, despite the many other things I could be doing at 7 p.m,, when the show airs in the Bay Area.   

So thank you, “Jeopardy!” in this decision, you’ve just given me back half an hour of my life every single day. I am sorry to say that with these new hosts, I won’t miss you.