NEW YORK – The very brief Mike Richards era on “Jeopardy!” began on Monday as the beleaguered game show dealt with the embarrassment of opening its 38th season with a host that its fans already know is toast.
Richards stepped down as Alex Trebek's replacement on Aug. 20, and was ousted as the show's executive producer a week and a half later, after it was discovered podcasts he had made in 2013 and 2014 contained demeaning remarks about women and minorities.
His selection as host by Sony Pictures Television after a lengthy run of tryouts by other personalities was already unpopular with fans before the old podcasts surfaced.
His ouster came after he had completed a week's worth of taping shows for the new season, and Sony couldn't redo them without affecting the game's integrity.
Richards was introduced as host Monday by a downcast-sounding announcer, Johnny Gilbert. Not a word was mentioned of his status as Trebek's replacement; if it had been originally, it was cut out.
Before he was introduced, it was noted that Trebek's widow and children had been on hand for the stage's dedication to its old host, who died of cancer last October.
“For the first time on the Alex Trebek stage, let's play 'Jeopardy!,” Richards said.
In keeping with Trebek's tradition — he considered the game and its players the star — Richards generally took a backseat to the action.
The show is in the midst of an historic run by Matt Amodio, a Ph.D student from New Haven, Connecticut. He won his 19th straight game on Monday, increasing his total winnings to $642,601, behind only Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer.
Amodio made quick work of competitors Amde Mengistu of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Gabbie Kim, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, winning $67,800 on Monday.
“Jeopardy!” next week will bring actress Mayim Bialik back as guest host before beginning another series of tryouts for Trebek's permanent replacement.
The Richards era will end after five shows. Trebek, who began in 1984, totaled more than 8,200.