Jeopardy!'s 2021-22 season kicked off with higher first-week ratings than last year, despite the controversy surrounding Mike Richards' short-lived hosting stint. The only week of the game show to be hosted by Jeopardy!'s former executive producer before he stepped down amid a scandal over offensive comments he previously made averaged 8.38 million viewers and a 5.1 household rating for the week of Sept. 13, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
That's a slight increase from the 2020 premiere week, which brought in 8.15 million viewers and a 5.0 household rating. The start of the 2021 season has been a pivotal one for Jeopardy! fans for more reasons than those behind the podium — it also continued the winning streak of Matt Amodio, which stands as of Monday at 29 games. Amodio's run is the longest winning streak since James Holzhauer won 32 consecutive games in 2019, although he's picked up less money during his run than Holzhauer.
Richards was initially named as Alex Trebek's permanent replacement after the beloved host's death in November 2020 prompted a string of guest hosts throughout that year's season. However, after Richards' offensive comments came to light, he stepped down from the role to remain an executive producer.
"It pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter," he said in a memo to staff in August. "I want to apologize to each of you for the unwanted negative attention that has come to Jeopardy! over the last few weeks and for the confusion and delays this is now causing. I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence."
Just 11 days later, Sony Pictures TV ousted Richards as EP of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. In a memo to the game show's staff obtained by Variety at the time, executive vice president of business and strategy Suzanne Prete wrote, "We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened."