What is “Mike Richards’ Redemption Tour”?
In case you missed it, Richards is the Jeopardy! executive producer who helped oversee his own appointment as Alex Trebek’s successor—only to exit last week after very problematic past rhetoric and behavior (including two discrimination suits) resurfaced. Now, he has reportedly agreed to undergo sensitivity training, according to multiple sources.
What’s the point, you ask? Because of course, despite his disgraceful (and discriminatory) behavior, Richards still gets to remain executive producer of Jeopardy!—and of Wheel of Fortune, for that matter. The show’s not called Accountability!, silly.
Well, that is, unless you think Richards—who indisputably bruised the Jeopardy! brand—continuing to collect a very healthy salary while rehabilitating his own image with basic training on how to be a decent human being is accountability. We just call it failing up.
From the New York Times (italics ours):
Last week, Mike Richards lost his gig as the new host of “Jeopardy!,” faced a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League, heard an outpouring of dismay from the show’s demoralized staff, and was forced to apologize after it was revealed he made sexist and crude jokes on a podcast several years ago [specifically, between 2013 and 2014] in which he mocked women’s appearances, unemployed workers and the size of Jewish noses.
This week, Mr. Richards is back running the show. And his bosses at Sony appear intent on keeping it that way.
In fact, according to several anonymous sources, Sony’s Chairman of Global Television Studios, Ravi Ahuja hosted a call with Jeopardy! staff on Monday in which he expressed support for Richards and “signaled that he expected the crew to move forward from last week’s uproar with Mr. Richards in charge,” and instructed them not to speak with the media.
“Mr. Ahuja praised Mr. Richards for his willingness to step down from the hosting job,” the Times reports, later adding that Ahuja “also invoked his own upbringing as an Indian American who grew up in the 1970s in Mississippi, where, he said, he faced racially offensive remarks, to emphasize that he was sensitive to concerns about Mr. Richards’s crude comments.”
What is “Wow”?
Richards was reportedly also on the call, where it was acknowledged that he’d be undergoing sensitivity training and he apologized as he “asked for an opportunity to prove ‘who he really is,’” his spokesman, Ed Tagliaferri, told the Times.
But...didn’t he already, though? On-air? Repeatedly?
“The way the show’s producers handled the transition from the Golden Age of Trebek is just as insensitive and out-of-touch as Richards’ smarmy comments,” wrote NBA Hall-of-Famer and two-time celebrity Jeopardy! competitor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in a Wednesday op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter, adding: “their tone-deaf misstep suggests the problem may not be just a bad branch, but a rotten root.”
“Admirably, the producers had rotated guest hosts that represented a cross-section of America,” Abdul-Jabbar continued. “But when it came to choosing the permanent host...The choice of Mike Richards was business as usual.”
It seems it will remain so, as “Mike is committed to continuing as the executive producer of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune,” Tagliaferri maintains. Reportedly, he was back at the helm this week as interim weekday host Mayim Bialik taped episodes. While neither Ahuja nor Richards have granted interviews, in a statement issued last week to the Times, “Sony expressed ‘hope’ that Mr. Richards would carry out his producing duties ‘with professionalism and respect.’”