All the Reasons People are Mad About Mayim Bialik and Mike Richards Hosting ‘Jeopardy!’
Twitter exploded on Wednesday afternoon after Mayim Bialik (Blossom/Amy Farrah Fowler/real-life scientist) and Mike Richards (non-famous guy) were finally announced as the new, permanent hosts of Jeopardy!. This might be the first time a cerebral 57-year-old gameshow has caused such an online firestorm, but the reasons for the controversy go far beyond the impossible task ABC had of filling Alex Trebekâs shoes.
Since the universally beloved Jeopardy! host died in November 2020, after 37 years of helming the show, a great number of temporary hosts have been cycled in and out to keep Jeopardy! rolling. Ken Jennings, the current record holder for the longest winning streak on the show was the first, doing a six-week run. Then a hodgepodge of guest hosts followed. There were journalists like Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta; talk-show hosts including Dr. Oz, Savannah Guthrie and Robin Roberts. There were even a couple of sports typesâquarterback Aaron Rodgers and Fox sportscaster Joe Buck both gave hosting a try.
But out of all of the temporary hosts, a clear fan favorite emerged: Reading Rainbowâs LeVar Burton. Not only does Burton have a warm-but-authoritative tone thatâs similar to Trebekâs, he was not at all quiet about his desire to take over the position. When fans found out he didnât get the job this weekâeven after over 267,000 of them signed a petition to make it soâmany vented on Twitter.
It was a good run Jeopardy. Iâm going going to stop watching with the memory of LeVar Burton as my host. https://t.co/iP5bEoP7au
— Robert Daniels (@812filmreviews) August 11, 2021
jeopardy picking someone other than levar burton and cashing in on his guest host publicity â the grammys featuring beyonce on the telecast but never giving her any of the big awards
— alex (@alex_abads) August 11, 2021
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) August 11, 2021
To make matters worse, Mayim Bialik also received swift backlash as soon as it became clear that she would be hosting primetime Jeopardy! episodes and new spinoffs. Critics focused in on rumors that the Big Bang Theory star is both an anti-vaxxer and a shamer of other women.
I will never forgive Mayim Bialik for1. Gathering internet clout for being a woman in science while also being antivax (she has since changed her mind)2. Her awful NYT oped which basically read as "it's hard when you're not a hot girl but it kept me from being harassed"
— HK2021 (@hennypennykenny) August 11, 2021
In truth, Bialik has received the COVID-19 vaccine, along with her children. She also released a nine-minute video last October clarifying her views on vaccines. âI wrote a book about 10 years ago about my experience parenting,â she notes in the clip. âAnd at the time, my children had not received the typical schedule of vaccines. But I have neverânot onceâsaid that vaccines are not valuable, not useful, or not necessary. Because they are.â She continues, âThe truth is, I delayed vaccinations for reasons you donât necessarily get to know about.â
I will never forget or forgive Mayim Bialikâs disgusting slut-shaming victim-blaming garbage NYT editorial in the wake of the Weinstein revelations. Truly awful. pic.twitter.com/NV9dXwAsEh
— Summer Anne Burton (@summeranne) August 11, 2021
The perception of Bialik as a victim-blamer traces back to a New York Times article she wrote in October 2017, titled âBeing a Feminist in Harvey Weinsteinâs World.â In it, she detailed the downsides of not being conventionally beautiful in the public eye and entertainment industry, but went on to say that it also made her less of a target for predatory men.
In the article, Bialik was careful to note that, âNothingâabsolutely nothingâexcuses men for assaulting or abusing women,â but she also made some clear judgments about women who donât dress as chastely as her. âI still make choices every day as a 41-year-old actress,â she wrote, âthat I think of as self-protecting and wise. I have decided that my sexual self is best reserved for private situations … I dress modestly. I donât act flirtatiously with men as a policy.â
Even worse, Bialik implied that more conventionally beautiful actors must be living emptier, more reckless lives than her. âIf you are beautiful and sexy, terrific. But having others celebrate your physical beautyÂ is not the way to lead a meaningful life. And ifâlike meâyouâre not a perfect 10, know that there are people out there who will find you stunning, irresistible and worthy of attention, respect and love. The best part is you donât have to go to a hotel room or a casting couch to find them.â
The controversial things Bialik said back then werenât the only reason she was the number one trending topic on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon. Sony Pictures Televisionâs decision to hire RichardsâJeopardy!âs current executive producerâto host the daily syndicated show was interpreted by some as both gross nepotism and a flagrant example of sexism.
This headline/article is garbage. Theyâre not splitting anything. Heâs the THE host of THE show. Mayim Bialik will do other stuff.
There was never a scenario where picking the shows in-house producer after an âexhaustive searchâ wouldnât look awful. This doesnât fix that.
— Daniel Lynch (@daniellynch) August 11, 2021
Seems like Mike Richards was primarily selected because he's undeniably a cookie cutter white guy and Mayim Bialik wasn't offered the job solo because she's a woman.
Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how it seems!
— Charlotte Clymer ️ (@cmclymer) August 11, 2021
It is utter bullshit to give Mayim Bialik some side job to distract from giving the primary position to a sexual harasser. We and she deserve better. https://t.co/guLxZzbYFT
— amanda wallwin (@amandawallwin) August 11, 2021
Many social media users were quick to bring up the fact that Richards was named in a 2012 lawsuit by Brandi Cochranâa former model on The Price is Right. During the case, Cochran detailed being harassed, sidelined and discriminated against on the gameshow for being pregnant. She specifically reported that Richards, âdidnât talk to her as frequentlyâ once her pregnancy was revealed, and that he also implied âthat she would have been one of the models fired had the pregnancy not been secret.â Cochran was ultimately awarded almost $8 million in damages.
The Jeopardy! hosting job was always going to be a tricky position to fill because of the depth of loss viewers felt with Trebekâs departure. To a lot of observers, LeVar Burton looked like a much better fit, and a less controversial choice than either Richards or Bialik. (Though his low ratings while guest hosting the show have been observed as a factor in not giving him the job, little regard seems to have been given for the fact that he was competing with the Tokyo Olympics for viewers.)
In a statement that will in no way ease the concerns of the Jeopardy! uprising online, Ravi Ahujaâchairman of global television studios and corporate development for Sony Picturesâinsists that casting Richards and Bialik was by no means a casual decision. âA senior group of Sony Pictures Television executives pored over footage from every episode,â he said in a statement, âreviewed research from multiple panels and focus groups, and got valuable input from our key partners and Jeopardy! viewers.â
Ahuja also noted, âWe took this decision incredibly seriously. A tremendous amount of work and deliberation has gone into it, perhaps more than has ever gone into the selection of hosts for a showâdeservedly so because itâs Jeopardy! and we are following the incomparable Alex Trebek.â
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