Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards will be the next guest host of the beloved game show, following trivia champion Ken Jennings. The show is cycling through a line-up of guest hosts following the death of long-time host Alex Trebek. Most of them are celebrities or familiar faces, though for casual viewers Richards might be the least recognizable.
Richards will host two weeks' worth of Jeopardy! episodes before handing it off to the next guest, Katie Couric. Richards is 45 years old, and just joined the production team last summer. In an interview with USA Today ahead of his on-screen debut, he said that the show is in no rush to name a long-term successor to Trebek. "Let's make sure we get someone we are going to feel even better about in a decade than we do this year," he said.
Richards has hosted other game shows in the past, including Weakest Link and The Pyramid. He told reporters that he found it "easier" to be both host and EP while filming his episodes of Jeopardy!, because "if I didn't like the way [a clue] was written I could get mad at me." However, he admitted that Trebek is a tough act to follow.
"Once I was able to get [past] the enormity of the man who stood behind the lectern for the better part of four decades... it was very fun," he said. "But at every commercial break, as I stepped back, I would think of Alex, who he was, how great he was, and it was easy to get in your head that way."
Richards' other TV credits include versions of Wheel of Fortune, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, The Price is Right, Let's Make a Deal and Beauty and the Geek. However, much of of that work has been behind the camera, and some of it was never actually made it to air. Even with all that experience, he said: "No one's going to replace Alex... It's a fool's errand."
Still, Richards intends to honor his former colleague with his two weeks on air, and expects the line-up of guest hosts to do the same. Starting on Monday, March 8, Katie Couric will take over for two weeks, followed by Dr. Mehmet Oz and then NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After that the line-up includes Anderson Cooper, Savannah Guthrie, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Bill Whitaker and Mayim Bialik.
Through it all, fans will still be mourning Trebek, who passed away in November of pancreatic cancer. Richards said that all of the guest hosts intend to honor Trebek without "distracting from the show," and all will be considered as the permanent replacement when this season is over. Jeopardy! airs on weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on ABC.