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Why is Mike Richards hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ tonight?

As the popular quiz show looks for a new replacement for Alex Trebek, Richards will host all this week. Also, changes coming to ‘Wheel of Fortune’

Mike Richards, who stepped down as the host of "Jeopardy!" and was removed as the show's executive producer, will be behind the podium this week.
Mike Richards, who stepped down as the host of "Jeopardy!" and was removed as the show's executive producer, will be behind the podium this week.Read moreCarol Kaelson / Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Mike Richards resigned as the new host of Jeopardy! last month after his sexist comments and offensive language from an old podcast were uncovered by The Ringer. He was subsequently removed as the show’s executive producer.

So why is Richards hosting Jeopardy! tonight?

Season 38 of the long-running game show premieres Monday, the first time since 1984 that beloved host Alex Trebek won’t be behind the podium for the season premiere. Trebek died last November after a battle with advanced pancreatic cancer and was replaced by a series of guest hosts for the latter half of season 37.

Richards, who had been named as Trebek’s replacement, filmed one week’s worth of Jeopardy! episodes — all in a single day — before Sony announced he was stepping down from the job due to widespread criticism over his past remarks and the prevailing notion that he essentially chose himself for the job, which Sony denies. So Richards will host this entire week, then disappear entirely from the show.

While Jeopardy! continues the search for Trebek’s permanent replacement, the show will once again return to a series of guest hosts. First up will be Mayim Bialik, who starred in the hit sitcoms Blossom and The Big Bang Theory. Bialik is also expected to host the show’s primetime specials, as Sony had previously announced.

Sony hasn’t announced any other Jeopardy! guest hosts beyond Bialik, who has weathered a quieter controversy over past comments involving vaccines and birth control. She also apologized after writing a 2017 New York Times op-ed about Harvey Weinstein that seemed to blame his victims.

Current Jeopardy! champion Matt Amodio, a Ph.D. student from New Haven, Conn., looks to continue his 18-game win streak. Hoping to unseat him are Amdé Mengistu, a legal recruiter from Brooklyn, and Gabbie Kim, a mother of two and birth doula from Pittsburgh.

So far, Amodio has won $574,801, the third most from regular games in the show’s history behind Ken Jennings ($2,520,700) and James Holzhauer ($2,462,216).

Prior to Richards’ anointment, Jennings had been considered a shoe-in for the role. According to the New York Times, Jennings was gifted a pair of Alex Trebek’s cuff links from his widow, Jean, prior to his first taping as a guest host. But Sony executives, hoping for smooth transition, passed over Jennings after a 2014 tweet mocking people in a wheelchair surfaced, according to the Wall Street Journal. Jennings has since apologized for some of the “unartful and insensitive things” he’s shared on Twitter.

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Changes also coming to Wheel of Fortune

Richards was also removed as the executive producer for Wheel of Fortune, which is similarly produced by Sony and kicks off its 39th season on Monday. Embassy Row’s Michael Davies, who currently serves as the executive producer on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, is producing both shows on a interim basis.

There will be some changes to the long-running Wheel, but fear not — both Pat Sajak and Vanna White are returning and have signed new deals that will keep them on the show through at least 2024.

For starters, Wheel of Fortune announcer Jim Thornton will no longer just be a disembodied voice — he’ll be standing behind a podium for announcements and to introduce Sajak, 74, and White, 64. Thornton, who is also a radio host in Los Angeles, replaced longtime Wheel of Fortune announcer and Philadelphia native Charlie O’Donnell following his death in 2010.

Also joining the show in a permanent role is Maggie Sajak, a Princeton graduate and the daughter of Pat Sajak. Maggie, 26, who filled in back in 2019 turning letters when her father was out following a health scare involving a blocked intestine, will be a social correspondent for Wheel of Fortune’s digital presence.

Arguably the biggest change to Wheel of Fortune will happen during the finales, where Sajak will no longer perform the show’s “final spin.” Instead, he’ll cede control to the contestant.

“If you think about it, by doing the ‘final spin’ I, as host, had an impact on the outcome of the game and that has always bothered me because it just didn’t feel right,” Sajak said in a statement. “With this change, only the contestants determine the outcome of the game and the host does not impose themself in any way.”

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