Hypocrasy is the necessary means to an end. The end of an era weighs in the balance
When Executive Producer Mike Richards withdrew from hosting duties on Jeopardy, it was in response to strong social media disdain over comments he made on a comedic college-based podcast created during the Obama Administration. That the language or sentiment was tame by pre-Me Too, Times Up, and Black Lives Matter standards were largely not taken into account. But even by current standards, these off-the-cuff remarks fell far short of what has been necessary to fully cancel someone in 2021. Unless, of course, the media trolls also have an ulterior motive. Like clearing the path to the host podium for someone you have been campaigning strongly for, like LeVar Burton. They say that Richards used his influence as EP to boost his own stock (fair enough, there is at least some smoke there.) and that Burton was hampered by receiving only half as many episodes to try out as guest host, during the Olympics which lessened his viewership (IOO, if you made it to the tryout portion of the audition process, you should already be a top-flight hosting talent. Jeopardy should be above grading on a curve, those five episodes were plenty for Burton, and the Olympics were still on while Joe Buck took his turn 9 days later, and he trampled Burton in the ratings.)
What viewers are skipping over or just blindly ignoring, to the damage of a great institution, is that Burton did not fit the show dynamic. It’s a shame because I was rooting for him, but he spoke to the contestants like they were his Reading Rainbow audience, which is to say, like children. There were bizarre pauses following contestants’ responses, the flow was uncomfortable and rendered pedestrian. If you’ve sat through high school or collegiate play-by-play and color commentary, you would know it was not a professional contest before you ever saw a player.
These same social trolls dragged out Miyem Bialek’s trope from 13 years ago about the non-vaccination of her children. Again, the vax stance has taken on a whole new meaning since early 2020 and it’s so easy to draw on it as a current hot button issue. (In this case, I feel as if Bialek has tried to backpedal off of that comment, but the explanation does not ring true. No matter, since she was not going to be the main host anyway, and shunning a common immunization is a far cry from Richards verbal assault on women, people of color, and those with handicaps.) The goal is the same, to clear the field for Burton to be given the mantle. Can victory be achieved by playing the race card? Stay tuned, although if the next choice for host is another white male, there will be even more of a reason to play it.
What is unfortunate in this case is the sad reality. Which is that Trebek himself had been called out multiple times for misogynistic rhetoric on Jeopardy over the years, seemed the most compassionate about men called out in the “Me Too” movement instead of the women they damaged and stated he would love to have Kevin Spacey compete on Jeopardy even after Spacey’s social cancellation for statutory rape allegations. These add up to much more ammo than Richards put out there nearly a decade in the past, but the truth is that Jeopardy fans don’t care about that, or they would have canceled Trebek a long time ago. They want a sharp host, who is in a space that he or she has earned, who can talk to other intellectuals intellectually. My pick is Buzzy Cohen. He is every bit as smart as Ken Jennings with the edge in youth and Karisma. Unique, but not over the top at all. Let’s hope he avoided Pepperdine podcasts and gets the break he deserves.