"Jeopardy!" executive producer Mike Richards will be the new daily host of the venerable quiz show, while actor Mayim Bialik was tabbed for franchise spinoffs, Sony Pictures Television said Wednesday.
The announcement capped months of speculation, and heated fan debate, about who should fill the role left vacant by the late Alex Trebek last year.
Trebek, who had been the face of the franchise since 1984, died on Nov. 8, 2020, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Both Richards and Bialik were among more than a dozen people — including former top contestants and celebrities — who served as interim guest hosts for Season 37 of the show after Trebek's passing.
“We 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 show – deservedly so because it’s 'Jeopardy!' and we are following the incomparable Alex Trebek," Ravi Ahuja, chairman of Global Television Studios and Corporate Development for Sony Pictures, said in a statement.
Richards, 46, has been at the helm of "Jeopardy!" since executive producer Harry Friedman stepped down last year. He stepped in as host from Feb. 22 until March 5.
“I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to host the syndicated version of 'Jeopardy!,' ” Richards said in a statement.
He added: “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined being chosen to step into a role of this magnitude. I am incredibly humbled to step behind the lectern and will work tirelessly to make sure our brilliant contestants shine in each and every episode."
Bialik, 45, has one of the most diverse resumes of any of the "Jeopardy!" guest hosts. She was a child star on the NBC sitcom "Blossom" in the early 1990s before going back to school and earning bachelor and doctorate degrees from UCLA in neuroscience.
She had a rousing second act on the small screen, appearing in 203 episodes of CBS's "The Big Bang Theory" between 2010 and 2019 and earning four best supporting actress Emmy nominations.
Bialik said her teenage son was one of the first people to float the idea of her being a guest host.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to join the 'Jeopardy!' family,” Bialik said in a statement. “What started out with my 15-year-old repeating a rumor from Instagram that I should guest host the show has turned into one of the most exciting and surreal opportunities of my life."
While Richards will be the daily host, Bialik will be the face of new spinoffs, the first of which will be the "Jeopardy! National College Championship" on ABC.
Producers said they went into the hiring process with the intent of hiring two hosts.
"We knew early on that we wanted to divide the hosting responsibilities and it became very clear that Mike and Mayim were the undeniable choices," Ahuja said.
"They were both at the top of our research and analysis. Mike is a unique talent, at ease behind the podium and a double threat as producer and host. Mayim has a wonderful energy, an innate sense of the game, and an authentic curiosity that naturally represents the 'Jeopardy!' brand."
The decision to employ two hosts surprised some fans, especially the selection of Richards, who was among the lesser known faces who filled in this season.
Though he has years of prior on-camera experience — including as host of the WB’s “High School Reunion” and CW’s “Beauty and the Geek” in the early 2000s — he became more known for his work on game shows behind the scenes.
Other guest hosts had also garnered more fan support. Some other big names who helped host included "Jeopardy!" champion Ken Jennings, veteran journalist Katie Couric and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
After Variety reported that Richards was in advanced negotiations to become the show's permanent host, many voiced their thoughts on who they would rather have lead the show.
James Holzhauer, one of the greatest players in "Jeopardy!" history, joked Wednesday that including Bialik was a last-second hire to appease fans who don't like Richards.
"Also new for next season: contestants can submit two Final Jeopardy responses in case the first one causes public backlash," Holzhauer tweeted.
The selection of Richards and Bialik was not universally embraced by "Jeopardy!" fans on Wednesday.
"I’ll take 'You done messed up big time!' for $1000," tweeted Fordham University political science professor Christina Greer, mimicking the show's answer-and-question format.
Oscar-nominated, Emmy winning director Ava Marie DuVernay said she wants to create a show for Burton "and make an international hit."
More than 200,000 people had signed a petition calling for Burton to be the new “Jeopardy!” host. Burton has been publicly jockeying for the gig for at least eight years.
"LeVar Burton should be the next host of 'Jeopardy!' " tweeted Army veteran, LGBTQ activist and "Jeopardy" fan Charlotte Clymer. "I can't believe we're even having this discussion. He's the obvious choice."
When news broke that Richards was the frontrunner for the hosting gig, some show fans pointed out that Richards had been involved in two discrimination lawsuits.
One of the suits was filed by Brandi Cochran, a former model for "The Price is Right," who said she was fired after she became pregnant. The suit, filed in March 2010, listed the defendants as CBS Corporation, CBS Television Network, Fremantle Media and “The Price is Right.”
Richards, who was a producer for the show, was not listed as a defendant but was accused in the suit of treating Cochran differently after she announced she was pregnant in late 2008. The case went to trial and a jury awarded Cochran more than $8 million.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge later overturned it and Cochran and the defendants settled outside of court, documents show.
In 2011, Lanisha Cole, another "Price is Right" model, filed a lawsuit. Richards was among the named defendants. However, he was later dropped as a defendant and the suit was settled in 2013, according to The Daily Beast.
In a recent note to "Jeopardy!" staff, Richards described the lawsuits as "employment disputes" against "The Price is Right."
"I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price is Right," he wrote.