Madison Palmieri ’22
Ever since the first iteration of Jeopardy! premiered in 1964, the word has become synonymous with fun, educational, and high-stakes trivia. It also conjures images of longtime host and television icon Alex Trebek.
Various early versions of Jeopardy! ran on the small screen from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. However, the most well-known, long-running incarnation of the quiz show is the Trebek-hosted, syndicated program that premiered on Sept. 10, 1984.
Trebek served as Jeopardy!’s master of ceremonies from then until Oct. 29, 2020, when he taped his final show before passing away 10 days later. A victim of stage IV pancreatic cancer, Trebek fought for 20 months before ultimately succumbing to the disease at the age of 80.
While viewers around the world mourned the loss of the beloved host, they were comforted by the fact that Trebek’s final episodes would continue to air, at least for the time being. Indeed, his final episode did not air until more than two months after his death, on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.
As the search for a new permanent host began, a series of temporary celebrity guest hosts took over Trebek’s duties. In a tribute to Trebek’s legacy of kindness, they made donations to charities in dollar amounts matching contestants’ winnings. These guests included everyone from television’s medicine guru Dr. Oz, Today Show host Savannah Guthrie, CNN personality Anderson Cooper, and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to scientist and actress Mayim Bialik, Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards, and infamous Jeopardy! Champion Ken Jennings.
In August, fans learned that Richards was slated to assume the position as the show’s sole host. However, past remarks quickly came back to haunt him and fans began to call for his removal. The comments, made on his 2013-2014 podcast The Randumb Show, included disparaging words about women and repeated praise for “the average white-guy host.” He also made use of derogatory terms for people with dwarfism and the mentally disabled.
In a recent statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Richards addressed his controversial past: “It is humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from a decade ago. Looking back, there is no excuse, of course, for the comments I made on this podcast and I am deeply sorry.”
In addition to offering this apology, Richards stepped down from his newly-appointed position as host as well as from his behind-the-scenes role as an executive producer on Jeopardy! With Richards out, it appeared that the future of the show was uncertain.
On Thursday, Sept. 16, however, Sony announced that Bialik, who had already been tapped to host Jeopardy! spinoff series, would split hosting duties with fellow former guest host Jennings. The two plan to trade off on the role of master of ceremonies as their schedules allow.
Although the long-term future of the show has yet to be decided, it seems that, at least for now, the future of Jeopardy! is no longer in jeopardy.