What is “a hot mess”?
If you’ve been following the unfolding debacle that is the future of famed game show Jeopardy! in the aftermath of the death of much-beloved host Alex Trebek, you already know a new host had been chosen—and spoiler alert: it was not LeVar Burton. While longtime executive producer Mike Richards was not our (or most folks’) obvious choice (and according to Uproxx, he helped choose himself), he’s also turned out to be far more trouble than he’s worth. The announcement of his appointment last week was quickly followed by reminders of multiple sex discrimination suits brought against him, and just this week, recordings of past sexist rhetoric by Richards also resurfaced, leading the Anti-Defamation League to call for an investigation and us to collectively ask: Is this your king, Jeopardy!?
The answer would be no. On Friday, it was announced that Richards would be putting us all out of our misery, having decided to quit the hosting gig amid the latest revelations, via a memo to staff released to People magazine which read in part:
It pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter...As I mentioned last week, I was deeply honored to be asked to host the syndicated show and was thrilled by the opportunity to expand my role. However, over the last several days it has become clear that moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show. As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately. As a result, we will be canceling production today.
I want to apologize to each of you for the unwanted negative attention that has come to Jeopardy! over the last few weeks and for the confusion and delays this is now causing. I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence.
Richards, who will presumably be staying on as executive producer, also noted that Sony Pictures Television would be resuming its search for a new permanent host, with guest hosts being brought in to continue production for the new season in the coming weeks. This is where things could interesting, since in addition to fan-favorite Burton, we were reminded of Trebek’s own recommendations for his replacement in the role, made prior to his 2020 contract expiration and death from pancreatic cancer that same year. As reported by The Root in 2018, Trebek had a few people in mind to assume his spot at the famed Jeopardy! podium, and one of them was a Black woman.
“There is an attorney, Laura Coates,” Trebek told TMZ founder Harvey Levin on Fox News’ OBJECTified. “She’s African-American, and she appears on some of the cable news shows from time to time.”
As former contributing editor of The Root Angela Helm noted at the time, Coates was well qualified for the job, having not only an impressive academic resume but on-air experience. (Like this writer, Yara Shahidi and Prince, Coates also hails from the Twin Cities, Minn., so there’s that working in her favor, as well.):
Coates is a former federal prosecutor and civil rights attorney who now teaches law at George Washington University. She is also a regular legal analyst on CNN, hosts a SiriusXM radio show called The Laura Coates Show, and authored the book You Have the Right: A Constitutional Guide to Policing the Police on citizens’ rights in encounters with law enforcement.
L.A. Kings hockey announcer Alex Faust was also on the shortlist Trebek shared with Levin, but strangely, neither he nor Coates were granted an interview or audition for the coveted role. Nevertheless, the latter acknowledged the shoutout, responding via a tweet that she was “incredibly honored & humbled” by Trebek’s nod of approval, marveling that the legendary host “1) knows who I am 2) thinks I’d be a great host of my fave game show ever that I grew up watching w/ my family & still watch w/ my own kids (who saw him say this & now think I’m a genius).”
Given that Trebek made worthy recommendations and LeVar Burton was right there...not to mention what a PR nightmare their choice of primary host turned out to be, we agree with Uproxx that “it’s hard to imagine that producers couldn’t do better than Mike Richards in finding a host who could be embraced by the audience.” Now they once again have the chance...so the question remains: Who will be the next host of Jeopardy!?