Mike Richards wasn’t planning on becoming the next guest host of “Jeopardy!”
But after taping six weeks’ worth of shows, Ken Jennings had to step down because of his obligations with the game show “The Chase” — a show that also features “Jeopardy!” giants James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. And the slew of celebrity guest hosts “Jeopardy!” had secured were not yet in a position to travel to Los Angeles and film.
“I didn’t know I was going to be doing it until three days before, and so I had not prepared myself to host in the way that I know other guest hosts are,” Richards recently told USA Today. “So there was just a lot to unpack. Plus, I also only owned one suit, so there was a little bit of scrambling there.”
But on Monday, Richards — the executive producer of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” who typically works behind the scenes — took front and center stage.
“As the producer, my job is to quite literally live the mantra ‘the show must go on,’” he said at the start of his debut, according to “Today.” “So let’s do what Alex Trebek did 8,244 times: Let’s play ‘Jeopardy!’ and prove that nothing can stop this show.”
On Tuesday, Richards again paid tribute to Trebek, who hosted “Jeopardy!” for 36 years up until his death from pancreatic cancer on Nov. 8, 2020.
“As you can imagine, this has been a very difficult year here. But we’ve chosen to celebrate our hero, Alex Trebek,” Richards said at the start of the episode. “Working with Alex was even better than you could’ve imagined. His intensity for this show, his humor, his kindness, but most impressively, his love for his wife, Jean, and his kids. He was everything you could hope for and more. He was an idol of mine, and I will work every day to try to live up to the example he set.”
And then, right before Richards revealed the categories for the first round, he kicked off the game with a “This is for you, Alex.”
Many “Jeopardy!” fans were pleased with Jennings behind the hosting lectern, commenting on his obvious love of the game and his admiration for Trebek. But just as many fans are satisfied with Richards. The producer has an extensive history with game shows, and seems to be easily slipping into the role.
Richards taped two weeks’ worth of games, and his last episode airs March 5, according to the Deseret News.
“It was very fun; humbling doesn’t begin to describe the feeling,” he told USA Today. “It hit me like a ton of bricks when Johnny Gilbert announced my name. That’s of course the last thing you hear when you start to walk out … and it was overwhelming in the moment.”
Following Richards, Katie Couric will then take over on March 8. Dr. Mehmet Oz’s guest hosting stint begins on March 22, and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers takes the reins on April 5. Each taped 10 episodes — two weeks’ worth of games — over two days in January, USA Today reported.
Additional guest hosts include Anderson Cooper, “Today” host Savannah Guthrie, Dr. Sanjay Gupta — the chief medical correspondent for CNN — “Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik and “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker, the Deseret News reported.
Some of these hosts will be considered for the permanent slot, according to Richards, who told USA Today that “Jeopardy!” is not rushing to name an official replacement and may not make an announcement until the new season starts in September.
”Let’s make sure we get someone we are going to feel even better about in a decade than we do this year,” he said.