The news today that Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings will alternate hosting duties of “Jeopardy!” for the rest of this year does not mean the end of the long-running crisis that has plagued the show since the death last November of Alex Trebek.
When Mike Richards stepped down last month as the show’s executive producer because of his alleged past behavior, I wrote that, “There comes a moment in every crisis when a company, organization or high-profile individual hits bottom and starts to climb out of the hole they fell into or dug for themselves.”
Richards’s departure appeared to be that moment.
When trying to end a crisis, appointing people to high profile roles who themselves have generated negative publicity does not appear to be a move designed to end the crisis. It simply extends and reminds people about it.
According to Today.com, Bialik and Jennings, both served as guest hosts in 2021 as the show worked on selecting a permanent host— a search that began anew after Richards’ exit.
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Bialik and Jennings both have issues in their past that came to light as the long-running iconic game show considered and auditioned many possible permanent hosts. Their appointments today to host the show on an alternating basis are sure to bring new attention to those issues and raise new questions about the selection process and the guidelines producers are using to vet and select a permanent host.
Last month, Bialik, who on August 11 was named to host prime-time specials of the show, came under scrutiny for her past words and actions. According to the Washington Post, “Two of Bialik’s stances drawing the most ire are her quotes on vaccines and her role as a ‘science ambassador’ for Neuriva, an over-the-counter supplement marketed as a way to improve brain health, which has been slammed as pseudoscience.”
In addition, the Post wrote, “… fans and social media users are digging into her past: Her 2017 New York Times op-ed about disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein that was criticized for victim-blaming, or her book that promoted the hotly debated attachment parenting philosophy (“Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way”).”
According to Deadline.com, “… just days before [Ken Jennings’] stint as guest host was to begin, several insensitive tweets by Jennings from years prior surfaced, including a 2014 comment that there is “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.”
“Jennings issued an apology, acknowledging that over the years he has “definitely tweeted some unartful and insensitive things.”
While the appointment of Bialik and Jennings to serve as alternating “Jeopardy!” hosts through the end of 2021 does not end the crisis for the game show, it does give producers more time to get things right….again.