All Mike Richards had to do was his job.
That job, of course, was serving as executive producer on two syndicated game show giants: Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Richards held down these roles beginning in May 2020, leaving the same role at The Price is Right and taking over from the beloved Harry Friedman who stewarded Merv Griffin’s two creations into TV icons. It’s as big a producing gig as there is in the game show biz. And yet, like many other American Icaruses with firm handshakes and a surplus of hubris, Richards wanted more.
Richards wanted to host. And so he did…first as a guest host and then as the full time host for five episodes. Now he is no longer a host or an executive producer of Jeopardy!. Suzanne Prete, Sony Pictures Television senior vice president, sent the following message to the show’s crew today (which was received by The Hollywood Reporter).
I’m writing to let you know that Mike will no longer be serving as EP of Wheel and Jeopardy! effective immediately. We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened.
Michael Davies from Embassy Row has agreed to help with production on an interim basis until further notice. Michael and I will work together with all of you in the weeks ahead to ensure that production remains on schedule and we do not miss a beat as we head into the new season.
I know this has been a challenging time for the entire team, and I want to thank you all for your cooperation and professionalism over these last few weeks. As Ravi mentioned last week, I will be more involved in the day-to-day on our shows moving forward and I am looking forward to working closely with all of you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything.
This officially closes the book on the Mike Richards era on Jeopardy!. When Richards stepped down as host earlier this month, he was allowed to remain on in his original role as executive producer. Many naturally assumed that he wouldn’t last long in that position and it was just a matter of time before Sony found a way to quietly let him go. Now that moment has come to pass and it wasn’t particularly quiet.
There’s not much left to say at this point other than that the five episodes that Richards hosted before his firing (which begin on Sept. 13) will be some of the most punishingly awkward television dispatches in the history of the medium.
It’s also worth noting that a documentary or scripted film or series about the Mike Richards story seems inevitable now. Just glancing through the details, it’s not hard to see why. In the most boilerplate description possible, this is the story of a handsome man who had it all, wanted more, and lost everything because of his tragic flaw (being an ass). It’s a Dan Harmon story circle waiting to happen and a distinctly American saga all wrapped up in game show sheen.
Jeopardy! faces a long road to getting back to its inoffensive, yet essential place in the television landscape. Whether it will be Mayim Bialik, Ken Jennings, LeVar Burton, or someone else helping to guide it there remains to be seen. Whoever it is will have a lot of catching up to do.