Last week, Mike Richards misplaced his gig as the brand new host of “Jeopardy!,” confronted a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League, heard an outpouring of dismay from the present’s demoralized workers, and was pressured to apologize after it was revealed he made sexist and crude jokes on a podcast a number of years in the past through which he mocked girls’s appearances, unemployed employees, and the scale of Jewish noses.
This week, Mr. Richards is again working the present. And his bosses at Sony seem intent on protecting it that method.
In a present of defiance that has baffled Hollywood, Sony Pictures Entertainment has signaled that it’ll hold Mr. Richards on as government producer of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” During a name with “Jeopardy” workers on Monday, Sony’s high TV government, Ravi Ahuja, made clear that the studio supported Mr. Richards, based on a number of folks briefed on the decision who spoke on situation of anonymity to debate inside conversations.
Mr. Ahuja praised Mr. Richards for his willingness to step down from the internet hosting job, saying it was the fitting transfer for “Jeopardy!,” and signaled that he anticipated the crew to maneuver ahead from final week’s uproar with Mr. Richards in cost, the folks stated.
He lamented the media protection of Mr. Richards and instructed the workers to not communicate to reporters. Mr. Ahuja additionally invoked his personal upbringing as an Indian-American who grew up in Mississippi within the 1970s, the place he stated he confronted racially offensive remarks to emphasise that he was delicate to issues about Mr. Richards’s crude feedback, the folks stated.
Mr. Richards has agreed to bear sensitivity coaching. On the decision, he apologized once more for his habits and requested for a chance to show “who he really is,” based on his spokesman, Ed Tagliaferri.
Mr. Tagliaferri additionally swatted away the notion that Mr. Richards could be negotiating an exit from Sony, saying, “Mike is committed to continuing as the executive producer of ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune.’”
Sony has tapped a veteran enterprise and authorized affairs government on the studio, Suzanne Prete, to supervise Mr. Richards on the present and “take more of an active presence on the creative direction and strategy.” Sony stated that the brand new function for Ms. Prete, who can even oversee the enterprise aspect of the present, was deliberate earlier than final week’s uproar. She will report back to Mr. Ahuja.
Sony declined to make Mr. Ahuja out there for an interview. Mr. Richards is again on set this week taping episodes with Mayim Bialik, who has quickly taken over weekday internet hosting duties. A Sony spokeswoman referred to an announcement issued final week, through which Sony expressed “hope” that Mr. Richards would perform his producing duties “with professionalism and respect.”
Sony has assigned a veteran enterprise and authorized affairs government on the studio, Suzanne Prete, to supervise Mr. Richards’s work on “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.”Credit…Beth Coller for The New York Times
Hollywood insiders had broadly anticipated Mr. Richards and Sony to be negotiating his exit after a report in The Ringer revealed a string of previous offensive feedback. In a podcast he recorded in 2013 and 2014, whereas serving as government producer of “The Price Is Right,” Mr. Richards referred to as his feminine co-host a “booth slut” as a result of she as soon as labored as a mannequin at a client commerce present, requested if she had “booby pics” on her cellphone, mocked girls who put on one-piece swimsuits as “really frumpy and overweight” and referred to stereotypes about Jews and huge noses.
Former staff of “The Price Is Right” had additionally filed lawsuits that accused Mr. Richards of constructing sexist and misogynist feedback on-set, together with balking when a mannequin he had employed for the present revealed she was pregnant with twins. (Mr. Richards disputes these claims.)
Some “Jeopardy!” followers have been already skeptical of Mr. Richards, a just about unknown determine who was named as Alex Trebek’s alternative regardless of serving to to supervise the host audition course of.
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Sony says it made its resolution independently of Mr. Richards. But as government producer, he had a hand in selecting the footage of every candidate that was screened for focus teams.
Meredith Vieira, the previous “Today” present star, was one tv character who was wanting to check out as a visitor host. But she was not supplied an audition, with the studio saying it was not desirous about anybody presently internet hosting one other sport present, based on three folks acquainted with the audition course of who spoke on situation of anonymity. (Ms. Vieira hosts a syndicated present based mostly on a board sport referred to as “25 Words or Less.”)
Mr. Richards, an skilled sport present host himself, was employed by Sony in 2019 from “The Price Is Right,” a drained franchise that Mr. Richards helped revive with Drew Carey as host. (Mr. Richards additionally auditioned for that internet hosting job.) He grew to become government producer of “Jeopardy!” final 12 months, changing Harry Friedman, an under-the-radar determine who exercised near-complete management of this system over a 25-year tenure.
“Jeopardy!” is without doubt one of the extra worthwhile property in Sony’s American leisure portfolio, however choosing Mr. Richards because the host got here with an added monetary profit. As a comparatively obscure determine, he would command a smaller wage than better-known contenders like LeVar Burton or Anderson Cooper. Mr. Richards’s compensation as host and government producer was believed to be considerably decrease than Mr. Trebek’s pay.
A phase of “Jeopardy!” viewers and aspiring contestants has expressed dissatisfaction with the choice to maintain Mr. Richards as government producer — some going as far as to re-evaluate their curiosity within the present due to his habits.
“If it was enough to disqualify him from being host,” stated Jon Porobil, a 35-year-old “Jeopardy!” fan from Pittsburgh, “why isn’t it enough to disqualify him from being executive producer?”
Matt Cappiello, 34, has taken the “Jeopardy!” entrance take a look at a number of instances, hoping to meet a lifelong dream of showing on the present. But due to the controversy over Mr. Richards, he’s now reconsidering.
“It tarnished the reputation of the show for me,” stated Mr. Cappiello, a copywriter who watches the present nightly from a bar in Brooklyn. “‘Jeopardy!’ is supposed to be a celebration of knowledge, and it’s being run by this guy who’s the personification of ignorance.”
For all of the criticism, Mr. Richards does have some supporters.
Gwendolyn Osborne, a mannequin who labored on “The Price Is Right” for greater than 12 years and considers herself a pal of Mr. Richards, stated she was shocked to find out about his podcast feedback, saying they didn’t align along with his habits as a boss. Contrary to the habits alleged within the pregnancy-discrimination lawsuit, she recalled that Mr. Richards supported her when she returned to work from maternity go away, after which years later when she grew to become pregnant once more.
“I have reached out to him to tell him to continue to believe in his greatnesses, and that I do believe that everybody is worthy of redemption,” she stated in an interview.