Following a turbulent last two weeks for Jeopardy! that culminated in Mike Richards’ ouster as host of the syndicated program after one day of production, the staff and crew of the venerable game show were summoned for a Microsoft Teams meeting this morning, sources tell Deadline.
Jeopardy! executive producer Richards addressed his team during the meeting, which was attended by Sony’s top TV executive, Ravi Ahuja, Chairman of Sony Global Television Studios, who oversees the studio’s gameshow franchises and was in charge of the search for a permanent Jeopardy! host following the death of Alex Trebek. A similar virtual meeting was held with the staff of Sony’s Wheel of Fortune, which Richards also executive produces.
Richards stepped down as host following a Ringer report about insensitive and sexist comments Richards had made towards his female co-hosts and guests on The Randumb Show, a podcast he hosted in 2013 and 2014, along with off-color remarks about Haitians and Jews.
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Today, he apologized to his staff for the comments, sources said. When Sony announced Richards’ exit as host of the syndicated show on Friday, the studio confirmed that he would continue as executive producer. Yet, multiple Jeopardy! staffers who attended the meeting said that had expected for him to step down as EP as the show is restarting the search for a permanent host. Mayim Bialik, named earlier this month as host of the Jeopardy! primetime and spinoff series, will fill in as host of the mothership syndicated program for at least the next three weeks. After pausing production on Friday, following Richards’ abrupt exit as host, taping on the syndicated Jeopardy! will resume later this week.
In light of the revelations about Richards’ offensive comments, Sony is assembling teams to work on increasing inclusivity, it was announced at the meetings. Ahuja stressed how seriously the studio is taking the issue and illustrated his personal commitment with a story about growing up as a Sikh in Mississippi in 1970s where he was exposed to racially insensitive comments.
I hear the goal of the meetings was to to get everyone together and boost the morale which had taken a major hit following the controversies involving Richards and a first Jeopardy! host search whose integrity has been questioned after it was won by the show’s EP. While there are some encouraging signs, judging by post-meeting reactions, regrouping and moving forward would likely be a long and difficult process.
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