‘Jeopardy!’ Review: The Long, Painful Goodbye Of Mike Richards
Mike Richards’ head-spinning string of humiliations continued tonight with the first day of his last week as Jeopardy! host airing in syndication, all the proof needed that even without the recent resurfacing of sexist and crude past comments the blink-and-miss-him replacement for Alex Trebek was never destined for game show greatness.
A Central Casting caricature of the bland, charmless, Wonder Bread game show emcees of earlier eras, Richards was a lousy choice from the get-go. Jeopardy! producers had the opportunity to replace the late, beloved Trebek with a host that could expand the game show canvas in new and diverse ways. A string of celebrity fill-ins hinted that the producers were casting a fairly wide net, but in the end that proved little more than a publicity stunt. (Mayim Bialik will now serve as the show’s temporary host.)
Instead, they chose one of their own: Richards, a longtime EP of the show. If he seemed to offer little beside an insider’s advantage, vague good looks and semi-slick polish, at least there was always the possibility that he’d develop a personality befitting that honored spot on the newly christened Alex Trebek Stage at Sony Pictures Studios.
(In a brief pre-taped appearance that starts tonight’s episode, Trebek’s wife Jean and three children Matthew, Emily and Nicky are shown at the recent dedication and naming of the Alex Trebek Stage.)
Tonight’s episode – the first of five Richards hosted and taped on Aug. 19 before the ax fell – provides little, if any, indication that viewers had anything in store other than a long wait for a glimpse at something approaching a screen presence. We can’t know for sure whether any bits of personality – ad libs, quips, asides – were edited out of tonight’s competition in order to reduce the host’s screen time (and the show’s embarrassment), but unless the next four evenings of Jeopardy! contain some major surprises, it’s safe to assume that Richards will fade fast from memory, his only shot at game immortality the possibility of landing on a Trivial Pursuit card.
So why show his five episodes at all? Simple: The contestants. They’d already taped their episodes and the results can’t just be erased, especially given the return tonight of 18-day champ Matt Amodio, whose winnings at the start of tonight’s contest total $574,801.
No spoilers here on whether or not he adds to the tally, but you can bet he and his challengers Gabbie Kim and Amde Mengistu have better nights all around than the man reading the answers.
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