Jun 11, 2021
'Jeopardy!' EP Mike Richards says a 'robust team' is searching for a new host
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"Jeopardy!" hired Alex Trebek as its host in 1984 and he held that title until his death in November 2020.
Now the void needs to be filled but the beloved game show is taking its time. Instead over the past few months, "Jeopardy!" has featured a parade of guest hosts doing their best to impress viewers and the studio that's expected to make the call before the new season begins taping later this summer.
Think of Sony Pictures Television as clutching the rose, and Mayim Bialik, Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric and "Jeopardy!" champs Ken Jennings and Buzzy Cohen among the suitors so far, with more to come including Robin Roberts, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and LeVar Burton.
Sony has "the most robust team of people I have ever seen looking at this and analyzing it in a very cerebral way," said executive producer Mike Richards. "It’s a real change from the way casting has traditionally been done on television."
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"It’s usually been a gut instinct of the head executive: ‘How about that person?’" Richards said.
That was producer-entertainer Merv Griffin’s approach when he brought a syndicated version of "Jeopardy!" to TV, five years after the quiz show’s last network iteration wrapped in 1979 on NBC. A word from Lucille Ball, of "I Love Lucy" fame, and Trebek’s skill and experience sealed his hire.
This image released by Jeopardy! shows Alex Trebek, host of the game show "Jeopardy!" Filling the void left by Trebek after 37 years involves sophisticated research and a parade of guest hosts doing their best to impress viewers and the studio that will make the call. (Jeopardy! via AP)
Audience and critical regard for the Canadian-born Trebek grew over the years, which makes finding a worthy replacement both a gesture of respect for the late host and the means to protect a corporate asset. While ratings have shifted under the guest hosts, "Jeopardy!" remains among the top-ranked syndicated programs in viewership.
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Trebek helped build the show’s "display of excellence with his own excellence. And it’s tremendously difficult to find somebody to replace him, not only because of the status that he had in the American imagination," said Deepak Sarma, a Case Western Reserve University professor and Netflix cultural consultant. "Anyone who is going to take his position will be judged in the end against this model of perfection."
Game show hosts of Trebek’s era were usually radio and TV broadcasting veterans steeped in the genre, and almost invariably white men. Among the "Jeopardy!" subs are men and women of color and prospects from a variety of fields, including NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The approach makes sense to Louis Virtel, a longtime fan whose vantage point is informed by writing for a game show ("Match Game") and competing on "Jeopardy!" in 2015.
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"It’s great to see all these different fill-ins. I’m open to suggestions, and I think most people are," said Virtel, a "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" writer and co-host of the "Keep It" podcast. "‘Jeopardy!’ is a one-of-a-kind show, and the replacement should be tailored to the game."
What makes for a good "Jeopardy!" host?
"I think establishing a sense of comfort (so) the audience just eases into the game," Virtel said. "Also a sense of stakes, that a real tough game is being played. It’s called ‘Jeopardy!’ for a reason. The host is there to make sure we’re all on our toes."
The try-outs are an unusually public form of auditioning, one that could cause flop sweat even for veteran emcees. For actor Bialik of "Blossom," "The Big Bang Theory" and "Call Me Kat," any nerves were crowded out by the demands of the job — and she's a neuroscientist.
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"There is very little room for not being 100% dialed in to the job of hosting when you are on that stage," Bialik said in an email. It proved the most "joyful, challenging, transcendent act I have undertaken — second only to giving birth to my second son on the floor of my living room."
Back in the day, there were only a handful of pioneers like Betty White, the first female game show host to win a Daytime Emmy (for 1983's "Just Men!"), and Adam Wade, a Black singer who hosted the 1975 game show "Musical Chairs."
Wayne Brady, Steve Harvey and Meredith Vieira are among those who made further inroads, with pressure only growing on the entertainment industry to reflect America more broadly on screen.
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But taking over for an authority figure like Trebek is harder on women and others not typically seen in such roles, said Sarma.
"The sorts of expectations placed on a person of color in a leadership position are usually higher than those placed on a white person in position of power," he said, and any error or "slight movement against the norm is jumped upon ... as some tremendous mistake."
There could be backlash from those resentful that Trebek isn't replaced like-for-like, which Sarma said isn't far-fetched in this period of social discord.
"Sony is in a pickle," he said.
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Series producer Richards, the second temporary host after Trebek's pancreatic cancer death last November at age 80, holds an optimistic view despite the prospect of online trolls and whatever their gripes about the newbie may be.
"My hope is that whoever is chosen will be given a chance to prove why they were chosen, without too much static," he said. "Ultimately, we are trying to put out the best product for our fans. That tends to narrow your focus to a pretty nice North Star, as opposed to, ‘What’s the internet going to say?'"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Chris Harrison Feels Betrayed By Bachelor Nation: Report
Getty Chris Harrison attends ABC's Winter TCA 2020 Press Tour in Pasadena, California, on January 8, 2020.
Chris Harrison may have settled his exit from “The Bachelor” franchise, but he is still reeling from the fallout, according to a new report from OK magazine.
Last week, Harrison announced his exit from the reality TV dating franchise he hosted since 2001. His exit came amid backlash he received for his defense of “Bachelor” Matt James’ final pick, Rachael Kirkconnell, and her participation in an Old South antebellum party when she was in college in 2018.
After issuing an apology for comments about Kirkconnell’s actions, Harrison stepped back from his hosting duties to do the work needed to educate himself on racism, but ultimately never returned to the franchise, even after vowing that he would be back.
Harrison was replaced by former “Bachelorette” stars Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams for the current season of “The Bachelorette,” and franchise star Wells Adams will be one of a rotating lineup of hosts for the upcoming season of “Bachelor in Paradise,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.Harrison Thinks It’s ‘Tacky” For Bachelor Stars To Go After His Job
ABCTayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe
Harrison’s departure from “The Bachelor” came after several stars from the franchise said they wouldn’t feel comfortable with him at the helm following the racism controversy.
According to Variety, current “Bachelorette” star Katie Thurston “flat-out” refused to star in her season of the rose-filled reality show if Harrison was the host. A source said Thurston spoke to Harrison directly to tell him she would not be comfortable working with him amid the backlash against him and that the conversation with her “upset and hurt Harrison.”
Another insider told OK magazine that Harrison “felt blindsided and betrayed” by the behind-the-scenes events that led to his exit from the franchise. The hosting veteran felt the controversy “would blow over, and he’d be welcomed back” given his 20-year history with the ABC dating series.
“Chris might say he doesn’t hold grudges toward the guest hosts, but part of him thinks it’s tacky of other stars to be gunning for his job so soon,” an insider told the outlet. “Chris feels like the way they pushed him out was unfair. There are whispers he could be planning a tell-all on secrets of the show.”
The source added that Harrison’s settlement with ABC may have included a non-disclosure clause to keep him silent, but that the fallen host has plenty of friends “tied to the show who want to speak out on his behalf and expose the dirtier scandals fans don’t even know about. “
Page Six previously reported that Harrison threatened to expose the “nearly 20 years of dirt” he has on the behind-the-scenes of the ABC dating franchise if he didn’t get an eight-figure payout in the $25 million range.
The Page Six source noted that Harrison has the dirt on “fights between contestants, misbehavior including use of illegal substances while overseas and complaints from producers that were allegedly brushed under the carpet by ABC execs,” and was “ready to tell the truth about how things really work over there.”Other Members of Bachelor Nation Are Standing Behind Harrison View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Chris Harrison (@chrisbharrison)
After Harrison officially announced his exit from “The Bachelor’ franchise, former stars of the series reacted on social media. Many, including fan favorites Sean Lowe, Ashley Iaconetti, and Tanner Tolbert, offered the former “Bachelor” host support and said the franchise will “never be the same” without him. Some even vowed to quit watching the show they once appeared on.
“What a loss for the show,” wrote veteran cast member Michelle Money. “Many people won’t be watching anymore. Myself included. One thing I know is that you will rise above all of this! Can’t wait to see what is next for you!”
His replacement hosts also spoke out.
“You are truly irreplaceable as a host, thank you for all the years you put into this show and making it what it is,” wrote Bristowe on Instagram. “No one does it quite like Mr. Chris Harrison.”
Tayshia Adams told Entertainment Tonight that she still has a relationship with Harrison and looks “fondly on those memories that I do have with him.”
“I support him in whatever he wants to do in the future, whatever that career path that is,” she added.
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