Fired ‘Jeopardy!’ Host: Aaron Rodgers Was Most Prepared to Replace Alex Trebek

The former Jeopardy! producer who was famously fired after one day as the TV game show’s new host, as a repercussion of disparaging comments he’d made years earlier, is speaking out about his experience and revealing how some of the top potential guest hosts tested to replace Alex Trebek came from unexpected professional backgrounds and might have altered the show’s tone.

Mike Richards had a career as a game show producer, working in top roles at shows including The Price Is Right and Let’s Make a Deal, before being tapped for the highly sought-after hosting gig at quiz show Jeopardy! following the death of longtime, beloved host Alex Trebek in 2020 from pancreatic cancer. In a new interview with People reflecting on that time period, Richards shared some details of the many famous people who auditioned for or guest hosted the enduringly popular evening game show as producers sought to find a suitable replacement for Trebek, as he was being mourned behind the scenes and among fans nationwide.

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“We could find out if they liked a Katie Couric-type, or maybe Anderson Cooper, or Mayim Bialik,” Richards says of the process that ultimately led to him being named as the new host. He shared that Couric was a stand-out as a host who could reshape Jeopardy! as fans have known it for decades.

“The show had a different look with Katie Couric,” he told the magazine. “She was so impressed by everyone’s knowledge. I always wondered if that was a missed opportunity, to reboot the show with her, a completely different host.”

Surprisingly, Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers was also high up on his list of potential hosts for the show.

“Aaron Rodgers was definitely the most prepared,” Richards said. “I was blown away by that — the intensity in which he prepped — and he was so lovely to everyone on staff.”

But could the host of Jeopardy!, a tough gig that he says requires a unique talent that Trebek definitely shared with audiences every weeknight, be split with the big responsibilities of the NFL?

“I was like, ‘How are you going to work this out with football scheduling?’ He said, ‘You’ll figure it out!'”

Prior on-air work Richards had dabbled in as he climbed the ladder in TV production, including stints on the dating series Beauty & the Geek, hosting the New Year’s Rocking Eve in 2005, and the show Million Dollar Pyramid, led to his name being tossed around for the high-profile Jeopardy! gig. The executive producer of the popular quiz show and its evening follow up, Wheel of Fortune, says he was “more surprised than anyone” when he was selected by a panel for the gig in August 2021. Audiences were not pleased, though.

“Everyone was so angry because it looked like I had gone into a room and picked myself,” he told People. “And that’s not what happens in television, but I understood that that’s what the outward appearances were.”

That anger turned to scrutiny of Richards’ past and after hosting the show for one day, he was sacked. Unearthed by the Anti-Defamation league were disparaging comments he had made on a podcast while it became known that he was also embroiled in wrongful termination and discrimination cases from models who appeared on The Price Is Right. Richards told People it had been insinuated that he was being personally sued for sexual harassment; this was not true and he was ultimately dropped from the lawsuit.

Other half-truths were written about him, he claims, as he quickly became a national pariah.

“Everyone was like, ‘Oh he’s just a horrible person'” he adds, “It was the price you pay for getting thrust into the zeitgeist in a very inopportune moment.”

Richards’ subsequent retreat from public life and work in TV, which was spent largely with his family (whom he says did not escape harassment) while working on new game show concepts, is now coming to an end as he makes a plea for open discussions of controversial issues over swift cancellation of people like that he experienced two years ago.

“We can all disagree about a lot of things,” he told People. “We can disagree about politics, we can disagree about who hosts Jeopardy! We can disagree about liking a final Jeopardy! clue. And we should. But I felt like there was a this rush to judgment, and a lot of people got joy in saying, ‘I got you.'”

Jeopardy! is now hosted by Ken Jennings, the show’s highest-earning American contestant. Actor Mayim Bialik, who co-hosted with Jennings following Richards’ very brief stint at the podium, left the show amid the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes.

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