'Jeopardy!': Sensitivity training for Mike Richards, here's what's next for the show
Mike Richards is reportedly slated to undergo sensitivity training after stepping down as the host of 'Jeopardy!'
Richards, 46, who is an executive producer of the show, had a brief stint as Alex Trebek's successor before he courted controversy for his past comments. He will now be undergoing sensitivity training while continuing to guide the game show behind the scenes, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, August 25.
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Hollywood was understandably baffled as Sony Pictures Entertainment signaled it will keep Richards on as executive producer of both 'Jeopardy!' and 'Wheel of Fortune'. Sony’s top TV executive, Ravi Ahuja, clarified during a call with 'Jeopardy!' staff that the studio supported Richards, sources told NYT on condition of anonymity.
Ahuja lauded Richards for his willingness to step down from the prized gig, admitting that it was the right move for the show's future. He said he expected the crew to move on from the uproar with Richards in charge, sources added.
Richards was also present on the Monday, August 23, call and apologized to his peers for his past behavior. He asked them for a second chance to show them "who he really is," his spokesperson Ed Tagliaferri told NYT. "Mike is committed to continuing as the executive producer of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune," Tagliaferri said, insisting Richards was not negotiating an exit from Sony.
Richards was named the new host of 'Jeopardy!' earlier this month. Just days after the announcement, The Ringer published a report about past offensive comments the executive had made during a podcast. Richards was reportedly still serving as executive producer of 'The Price Is Right' when he recorded the podcast in 2013 and 2014.
According to the report, Richards called his female co-host a “booth s**t” because she once worked as a model at a consumer trade show, asked her whether she had “booby pics” on her cellphone, called women who wore one-piece swimsuits "really frumpy and overweight," and made jokes on stereotypes such as Jews and large noses.
Following the backlash, Richards announced he was stepping down from his hosting gig on Friday, August 20. He issued a statement the previous day, saying his comments marked a "terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago."
It's worth noting that Richards has previously faced workplace discrimination allegations during his time at 'The Price Is Right', where he worked before arriving at 'Jeopardy!' Former employees of 'The Price Is Right' had also filed lawsuits accusing Richards of making sexist and misogynist comments on set, adding that he once balked when a model he had hired for the show revealed she was pregnant with twins.
Richards vehemently denied those claims. "The way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on 'The Price Is Right'," Richards told 'Jeopardy!' staffers in a memo, obtained by People magazine earlier this month.
What's next for 'Jeopardy'?
According to People, in the wake of Richards stepping down from the dream role, actress Mayim Bialik will be filling in temporarily. 'The Big Bang Theory' star was named as host for 'Jeopardy!' spinoff series and primetime specials. Meanwhile, additional guest hosts will be announced as the production continues.
Sony said that episodes taped in Richards' nine-day tenure as host will still be aired. Jeopardy!'s 38th season is set to premiere on September 13.