|Some of the proposed hosts|
I've been watching Jeopardy since Art Fleming was the host. One of my fondest memories of my mother (who died when I was twelve) is of watching Jeopardy with her. The Art Fleming version went off the air the same month she died.
I was in college when it was brought back with Alex Trebek as host. I was a bit of a game show nerd growing up and knew him from two previous game shows: High Rollers, which introduced the concept of gambling through craps to a generation of kids who pretended to be sick so that they could stay home and watch TV, and The $128,000 Pyramid (scheme). Even in these two goofy shows, it was clear that Alex was much smarter than the average game show host.
|Alex and co-host Ruta show off their Hair|
When Jeopardy returned, I was thrilled and recorded it every day, "binging" on the stacked-up episodes when I got home from college for a weekend or a vacation. This continued when I moved to California for grad school, and continues to this day. My wife and I generally watch it when we are eating lunch. I'm usually a week or two behind air dates, but catch up in the summer reruns.
|Well played, Google. Well played.|
It was a sad day when Alex died as he left big shoes to fill. It seemed as though it was likely that Ken Jennings would be his hand-picked successor. In addition to his records as a contestant on Jeopardy, Ken has hosted a few game shows and made appearances on many others.
I was surprised when Jeopardy announced a series of guest hosts. It began to make sense when I realized that Jeopardy's taping schedule interfered with Ken's tapings as host for another game show, The Chase. I still figured that it was Ken's job to lose, and somehow, it looks like that happened.
News leaked that Executive Producer Mike Richards was the top-runner for the spot. It was indicated that there were a few others still on the shortlist while they negotiated his contract. Did they reject Ken because of some tweets that were in poor taste? Well, if they did, they had better look into the past of Mike Richards. When he was EP on The Price is Right, he fired model Brandi Cochran for getting pregnant. From the Hollywood Reporter:
'Cochran said she originally kept her pregnancy secret because she didn’t want to be fired. Later, she did tell others that she was pregnant with twins. When Cochran did so, she testified, Richards “put his head in his hands.” The next day, Richards allegedly stormed up to her and said, “Twins? Are you kidding? Are you serious?
Richards defended not rehiring Cochran (who had a miscarriage with one of the twins and pointed to the stress she endured) because of the show’s evolving format. At trial, he testified the show was relying upon fewer models and while Cochran was a “good model,” she “would not take us to great.”'
Jeopardy has had 16 guest hosts. I guess the appeal of Mike Richards is based on ratings. He had the second-best ratings after Jennings. However, this is not really a fair metric. Ken's ratings were lower than Alex's last few weeks, and Mike's ratings were lower than Ken's. The downward trend has continued overall since then, but for obvious reasons.
First, the novelty of guest hosts ran out quickly. Just make a decision already! Second, Ken and Mike were on in the early spring, when TV viewing is at a high. Ratings typically drop all summer long. They even run reruns in August because they know the audience is small. Finally, the last two weeks have had the Olympics. A third of the syndicated markets that run Jeopardy are NBC affiliates, which carry the Olympics. For a third of the stations, the show is pre-empted and runs either late-night/early-morning, or even worse, they are lumped together over the weekend in a late-night/early-morning schedule. Both of these make it difficult for the viewer to find the show, and if you are recording it at its regular time, the pre-emptions may not record at all. This is a very raw deal for Levar Burton.
When I heard that Levar Burton was guest hosting, my hopes shot up that he might get the job. Jeopardy leans heavily towards a white audience (as well as male-dominated, and an older audience that continues to get older), and the new host could be used to bring in an untapped audience. Burton has several things going for him. He came to the public eye winning an Emmy for Roots, which was landmark television. Not only was it the first African-American series, but it was also about slavery, something that has always been a hot topic in the US. Growing up in a lily-white suburb of Boston, I have to admit that seeing Roots opened my eyes to US history. It should really be required viewing. (Interestingly, ABC had so little faith in the project that they decided to burn it off in a mini-series run over a week instead of running it as a series, which was the original intention.)
For more than 20 years, Burton hosted Reading Rainbow, essentially making himself the "Mr. Rogers" of a generation. I was too old to watch it, and never had kids, but the show has won a Peabody and 26 Emmys. His presence on Jeopardy could open up a whole new audience to the show. He was also Geordi LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which made a black engineer a model for many younger viewers.
I have not yet seen his appearance, but the general consensus is that he did not do well. Even he admitted he was rocky at first.
Looking at the 16 hosts, there were only 4 that were minorities. Bill Whitaker, who put me to sleep, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who was quite good but probably not looking for a new job, and Robin Roberts. I was pleasantly surprised by Roberts, who is a Peabody-winning journalist for covering her own complex health issues. She has a very amiable demeanor and a very pleasant voice. She is also the only minority woman who has hosted. I think she would be an excellent choice, she would likely get more women viewers and more minority viewers, which the show needs badly.
Three other women have hosted the show. Katie Couric had very good ratings, but is not looking to be a permanent host, and was not particularly good in my opinion. Mayim Bialik was mediocre, although her presence on a long-running sitcom might bring in a younger audience, which the show also needs badly. Savannah Guthrie was very weak in my opinion.
None of the other men have impressed me. In particular, Dr. Oz, who is essentially a snake-oil salesman (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6167233/), is the oddest choice of all. I can't imagine why he was invited. Same with Joe Buck, whose most famous quote was his World Series coverage of "Pujols squeezes out number two" (although his shows have not aired yet).
I'll be very happy if Robin Roberts or Levar Burton gets it, and I'll be satisfied if now dark-horse Ken Jennings gets it. Anyone else, it's likely to be a letdown.
I like David Faber too, but I'd rather see Levar or Robin get it.
Mike Richards has already been fired as host, but he continues to be the showrunner. If these comments were bad enough to keep him from hosting, why should he be the one telling the host what to do?
He has been replaced with Mayim Bialik, who also brings baggage:
'In her 2012 book, Beyond The Sling, the Big Bang Theory actress wrote that she and her husband “made an informed decision not to vaccinate our children, but this is a very personal decision that should be made only after sufficient research, which today is within reach of every parent who seeks to learn about their child’s health regardless of their medical knowledge or educational status.” Bialik’s comments have circulated in the years since, positioning her as an anti-vaxxer, a label she rejects, as she has since vaccinated her children and has publicly announced that she has also received the Covid vaccine. Bialik, who is a proponent of attachment parenting and holistic birthing, is also a critic of the birth control pill.'
In addition, like Oz, she is a huckster:
Jeopardy Co-Host Mayim Bialik Promoted Fake Brain Supplement Neuriva
The actress has a PhD in neuroscience. She should know better. I don't think she is an appropriate host either.