It appears “Jeopardy!” may have found its permanent replacement for Alex Trebek, the game show’s longtime host who died last year. And it’s probably not the person most fans were expecting.
Sony Pictures Television, which produces the show, is in advanced talks to make the show’s executive producer Mike Richards the permanent host, Variety reported Wednesday. A spokesperson for Sony declined to comment on any potential talks with Richards.
An individual with knowledge of the discussions told TheWrap that talks with potential hosts are still ongoing, as is the decision-making process, though the individual stopped short of confirming that Richards was among those in consideration or how many potential long-term options are still in the mix. The individual added the eventual decision will incorporate focus groups, research and fan response.
Were Richards to get the gig, it would be a bit of an upset, considering that many in the industry viewed former super-contestant and current consulting producer Ken Jennings as Trebek’s likely successor. Jennings’ two-week guest hosting tenure was the highest-rated among any of the replacements, though he was also the first to go, so he had a level of built-in interest that has faded over time.
Richards, for what it’s worth, was the second-highest rated guest host and not far behind Jennings’ 6.0 rating with a 5.9 rating for his two-week run in late February and early March.
There has also been a major fan campaign on behalf of former “Star Trek” and “Reading Rainbow” star LeVar Burton, who recently completed his own guest-hosting run on the show.
Though Richards is a relative newbie to “Jeopardy!” fans — he joined the show as its executive producer last year, only months before Trebek died — he has extensive experience in the game show world and as a host. Early on his career, Richards hosted reality series like “High School Reunion” for the former WB network, and “Beauty and the Geek” for its successor, The CW. He joined “The Price Is Right” in 2008 as a co-executive producer. By the time he came aboard “Jeopardy!,” Richards had produced more than 4,000 hours of game show TV.