An undated photo of Jeopardy! host Mike Richards, who is also the executive producer of the long-running daily TV quiz show. (Carol Kaelson/Sony Pictures Entertainment/Handout via Reuters) What a battle over game-show-host succession reveals about cancel culture and elite status competition.
The basic gist of the decades-old quiz show Jeopardy! is known almost as universally as was Alex Trebek, whose time hosting the show from 1984 until his death last year (with a few of his episodes aired early this year) made him almost a byword in popular culture for intelligence. Show contestants are known for, and succeed by, their proficiency in answering questions, albeit in the show’s idiosyncratic manner: They must respond to descriptive prompts of varying cash value (added to their total if answered correctly, subtracted from it if not) in the form of a question. But there is one prompt that, if it appeared on an episode today, would have no clear response: “This individual will serve as the new host of Jeopardy!” And there is a reason for this besides the difficulty of replacing someone so esteemed as Trebek — something that is likely to place all future hosts, and maybe the rest of us, in some form of jeopardy, if not resisted.
Last week, Mike Richards, a member of the production staff of Jeopardy! who had been named the official successor to Trebek (after a series of guest hosts filled in during the interim), resigned from his position as host. He had secured it only a week prior, a circumstance that may have borne a superficial resemblance to Dick Cheney’s chairing George W. Bush’s vice-presidential selection committee and recommending himself for the job. At any rate, the grounds for his resignation were not a conflict of interest but, rather, offensive comments he made in a podcast in 2013–14. You can judge for yourself whether they are worthy of the demotion he received (a sampling: calling a woman a “booth slut” and another one “fat”). Many media outlets are loath even to mention specifically what he said, simply noting that what he
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