A More Personal Than Usual Article About My Feelings — And People’s Reactions
As everybody knows by now, Jeopardy has ended its search for a host. Their selection was Mike Richards, an executive producer of the show who did a stint this past March and was generally well received. Mayim Bialik, who was more ecstatically reviewed by audiences, was picked to host prime-time specials and certain tournaments.
After everything that has happened since the passing of Alex Trebek last November and all of the writing I’ve done the subject, here’s my reaction.
Was I pleased by the choice of Richards as permanent host? Not really. It has nothing to do with certain flaws that now are becoming apparent and more to do with the fact that I wished that someone who had a more relevant history with Jeopardy had been chosen.
Am I surprised that Richards was the final choice? Not really. I had expected at some level for Jeopardy to promote from within. Given how long Ken Jennings had the stint earlier this year, I naturally considered him a more likely possibility. All of the celebrities who have been kind enough to guest host had day jobs already. If you really expected Anderson Cooper or Robin Roberts to take over, you clearly don’t watch anything resembling news. The most likely celebrity I thought might take over was someone who never even took up the mantle as guest host — Jeff Probst, who’s had a closer history with the show, often being at the center of several categories and who hosted the Rock and Roll version of the show on VH1 in the late 1990s.
The PC police are irked because some of their favorites — Bialik and LeVar Burton — were passed over for yet another white man. To which I say, the lion’s share of the guest hosts were white men. The law of average did dictate that it was going to happen. And I have to say, a lot of people expressed their dismay about it in certain ways that as a fan, I found abominable. TV Guide actually jeered the contestants who appeared on Jeopardy the week Burton hosted for taking attention away from him. Wow, real nice attitude to the guy who was already humiliated by having the highest negative score in the history of the show. And not really giving enough credit to Matt Amodio who is currently the third highest money winner in regular season’s winnings right now.
This actually seems to be symbolic of a larger problem that most of the people berating the choice of Richards are forget. Without great contestants, Jeopardy is nothing. I loved Alex Trebek, no question, but most of what he did as a host was make the contestants look good. I’m pretty sure that until Alex Trebek’s fatal diagnosis, the lion’s share of people watching Jeopardy weren’t only watching it to see Alex Trebek. I know I wasn’t.
This actually brings me to my larger point, which I will illustrate through two friends. One I will refer to as X. I am a friend of his, but even I find it hard to tolerate his general attitude, which is shitting on everything. Nothing is as good as it once was; everything was better before and not even then. He’s watched Jeopardy for a long time, but he’s only seemed to really give a damn about it when Alex Trebek finally passed. And even then, it was basically critique everybody who dared guest host. How many of them were faulted because he disliked them beforehand I don’t know. The only ones he genuinely seemed to like were Aaron Rodgers (who I couldn’t stand) and Mayim Bialik. Everyone else he either hated or didn’t care about, which is sadly his approach to everything.
When he mentioned Richards, he was disdainful about everything Jeopardy related. Richards was a terrible choice because he made no impression. I suggested that contestants like Matt Adadio were the kind of thing Jeopardy needed. He considered him ‘dull’. Apparently it’s not enough to win 18 games and over half a million dollars; you have to have a personality. The fact that the lion’s share of great Jeopardy champions only really develop personalities when they come back for tournaments doesn’t seem to register with him. He had no use for Ken Jennings’ accomplishments because he only got a personality when he started coming back for tournaments. Now I may have had my problems with Jennings’ in his original run, but even I appreciated what he’d accomplished.
Unfortunately, there are probably a lot of people like X out there. When Matt began his original run, many fans dominated the online-verse by being peeved that he only formed his questions using the word: “What?” (I lectured on this before, and I’m glad to know that since then the buzz had turned in his favor.) To those who basically are not watching Jeopardy for the hosts and who only care about what the contestants do wrong, I have to ask: why are you watching the show at all? If you’re just there to hate watch Jeopardy, I say this from the bottom of my heart: find another use for your time. Jeopardy’s going to have its problems going forward from the people who love the series. The last thing this series needs is a bunch of trolls. The fans are perfectly capable of tormenting the contestants on our own, thank you very much.
Which actually brings me do my other person, the one I’ll call Y. He and I have a lot of mutual friends, but I can barely stand him. Everything about his personality and behavior irks me. There is, really, only one thing we have in common and that’s Jeopardy. Even given his knowledge of the series history, its champions and its tournaments — something I have in common with very few other people — I have often been reluctant to discuss any aspect of the show with him. He has ideas that are often, far-fetched, to say the least — he not only believed Jennings would sign on to host, but would stay on for thirty years. But even though he often gets behind in watching it, he clearly appreciates Jeopardy in a way that X does not. I don’t quite appreciate Y’s love for the show the same way I do, but I completely understand it.
And ultimately I believe the future of Jeopardy rests more in the hands of the Y’s of the world than the X’s. Because our love for this show doesn’t start and end with whoever ends up hosting it. We watch it to see the achievements of a Ken Jennings or a James Holzhauer, to be awe-inspired by the accomplishments of a contestant like Eddie Timanus, the first blind five-day champion and to be entertained by the antics of a Bob Harris or an Austin Rogers. Tournament of Champions have always been appointment viewing for us. To chuckle at the responses in a ‘BEFORE & AFTER or TRIPLE RHYME TIME is a joke a Jeopardy fans loves. As long as the show continues to remember what makes it great — its future will be as bright as its past. I won’t be tuning into the premiere of Season 38 to see how Mike Richards handles hosting; I’ll be watching to see how far Matt Amodio can go before he is defeated. That is the reason people like me watch Jeopardy. The rest is just noise we tune out.