Jeopardy!‘s big hosting announcement on Wednesday didn’t lead to a purely celebratory reaction.
After news broke that the show’s executive producer Mike Richards will host the daily syndicated program while actress Mayim Bialik will emcee primetime and spin-off specials, fans of the long-running show had their say — and a lot of it wasn’t pretty.
The criticism largely stems around Richards getting the job — and for a myriad of reasons. Generally, it’s the idea that he gave himself the gig, as he already helms the show, and that was an often-expressed sentiment on social media.
Others didn’t connect with Richards when he guest-hosted, thinking others — LeVar Burton, Ken Jennings, LeVar Burton, Buzzy Cohen and did we say LeVar Burton? — were better. And many brought up the recently resurfaced workplace discrimination lawsuits against Richards (which he defended himself against).
Though a smaller group liked him, feeling he’s “most similar” to Alex Trebek, whose death last year, from pancreatic cancer, led to this new host search. They’re hopeful Richards will continue to let contestants be the stars and not the role about himself.
The reception toward Bialik was decidedly warmer overall. While many on social media criticized Richards, they felt the Call Me Kat star and Big Bang Theory alum, who’s also a neuroscientist and podcaster, was a “terrific choice.”
But even she was picked at online following the news, with past quotes resurfaced and mini-controversies revisited.
In the current climate, the comments Bialik made about vaccines in her 2012 book Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way have gotten the most attention. She said her two sons did not follow a typical vaccine schedule, which led to her being labeled an “anti-vaxxer.” Her sons, however, are vaccinated, she clarified in 2020 when she said, “I have never, not once, said that vaccines are not valuable, not useful or not necessary — because they are.”
Bialik spoke with Yahoo Life in January about her stance on vaccines, saying, “The amount of research required to kind of make that sort of decision for me is really based on kind of the basic science of what’s going on in the world and how we protect ourselves… Science is real. It really does matter that people be as careful as we can be, and that means changing our lives in significant ways.”
Her resurfaced vaccine quotes even led her publicist to issue a statement Wednesday, telling The Wrap, Bialik “has been fully vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus and is not at all an anti-vaxxer.”
While Richards hasn’t yet addressed any of the criticism — writing just about the “great things ahead” with the show’s two news hosts — the four-time Emmy nominee has. In one video thanking fans for their excitement over her new gig, she had a kind message for the ones who were less so.
“And if you don’t like me as the new host of Jeopardy!,” the star began, “I’m sorry. I love LeVar Burton,” who she worked with on Big Bang Theory.
Bialik continued, “I really have great respect for everybody who guest hosted. And I really think it’s amazing that it’s a woman hosting Jeopardy!” for the first time. “It’s really exciting. It’s a very big deal.”
She later posted another video thanking fans, noting in that she’s felt her fans’ “love and support all day” following the news. She also said she had spoken with Richards and told him that she thought all along he would be the one hosting the syndicated show.
Sony Pictures Television made the hosting announcement Wednesday after it had leaked Richards was in salary negotiations for the job — and that brought a negative response.
Richards will host the syndicated show while Bialik will step up for Jeopardy!’s primetime and spinoff series, including the upcoming all-new Jeopardy! National College Championship set to air on ABC next year.
Richards will continue to serve as executive producer (as well as ep Wheel of Fortune). Ken Jennings will return as consulting producer for the show.
Production on Season 38 begins in mid-August, with new episodes starting September 13.