‘Jeopardy!’ Exec Producer Mike Richards Gives His Critique of Ken Jennings’ Guest Hosting Stint
Mike Richards just took over as Jeopardy! guest host after GOAT Ken Jennings wrapped up his six-week run. With a lineup of celebrity personalities scheduled to man the quiz board, Richards will be at the iconic lectern until March 5.
As both a Jeopardy! champ and consulting producer, Jennings went into his guest-hosting gig with plenty of background on the trivia game. Richards weighed in on Jennings’ turn reading the answers rather than asking the questions.
Ken Jennings of ‘Jeopardy!’ was the first guest host after Alex Trebek’s death
Game show icon Alex Trebek hosted Jeopardy! for 36 years. Following his death in November 2020 due to pancreatic cancer, Trebek left a void at the quiz board podium that would be impossible to fill. Jennings was the first one to kick off guest hosting duties.
“Ken did an amazing job; that’s why we picked him to do it,” Richards told USA Today. “He did better than I thought, and my expectations were incredibly high. I think he was the perfect person to come onto the stage after Alex.”
Jennings’ long-standing history with the show as well as his familiarity to viewers made him a logical choice to start the guest hosting rotation.
“Our fans, our staff, and crew are all familiar with him,” Richards explained. “He came out, said the right things, was humbled by the situation, addressed the elephant in the room right away and said no one’s going to replace Alex, and they’re not.”
Mike Richards was ‘proud’ of ‘Jeopardy!’ GOAT Ken Jennings
Richards admired how Jennings stayed true to his own personal style while at the lectern, and expects the several upcoming guest hosts to follow suit.
“Ken hosted the show as Ken,” Richards remarked. “And what you’ll see with all the guest hosts is they’re not distracting from the game; they pay homage to Alex, but they are also getting to show their unique talents within those confines.”
The Jeopardy! executive producer noted the game show’s unique structure, and raved of Jennings’ performance during his six-week stretch.
“They’re very strict confines,” Richards said of Jeopardy!’s format. “Sixty-one clues in 22 minutes will never be done again on television, and it’s part of its beauty. I’m proud of Ken because I know he was very nervous, but also very up for it.”
‘Jeopardy!’ executive producer Mike Richards described guest hosting as ‘humbling’
With the coronavirus (COVID-19) still causing obstacles for some guest hosts to travel to the Jeopardy! set, Richards had to step in.
“I didn’t know I was going to be doing it until three days before,” he revealed of his guest hosting stint. “I had not prepared myself to host in the way that I know other guest hosts are. So there was just a lot to unpack. Plus, I also only owned one suit, so there was a little bit of scrambling there. … Humbling doesn’t begin to describe the feeling.”
Richards shared that hearing his name called by Jeopardy!’s longtime announcer made him realize the magnitude of serving in the role once held by the legendary Trebek.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks when Johnny Gilbert announced my name,” Richards said. “That’s of course the last thing you hear when you start to walk out. … and it was overwhelming in the moment.”