Gail Sideman Publicity


For More Information Contact:     Gail Sideman

Jeopardy’s PR lesson

This was initially posted in the August 25, 2021 issue of SIDEbar, a weekly PR newsletter distributed by gpublicity.
When game show Jeopardy! set out to find a replacement for its late legendary host, Alex Trebek, it looked like it was doing everything right. Several guest hosts stepped into temporary auditions of sorts. Each generated a healthy share of watercooler and social media chatter which even when individual styles were criticized, they were short-lived. From a public relations perspective, it was all good. Then Jeopardy! and its production company, Sony Pictures Television, stabbed themselves in the foot.

Within hours after they announced that executive producer Mike Richards would take over the coveted podium, he was gone, at least from the stage. Disparaging podcast audio doubled down on a preexisting condition that revealed that he regularly demeaned women and minorities. This public outing gave a whole new meaning to Daily Double.

What began and could have continued to be a public relations win for a new host of a mainstay in many households, became a {bleep} show.

Stepping down was the right thing – the only thing — for Richards to do. It was wrong to appoint himself host of a show he executive produced. Sony made it worse when it went along with the hire, especially when his past was easily searchable in legal documents.

Jeopardy! has a longstanding reputation as a smart, challenging and drama-free show except of course, when contestants cry with joy. Replacing an icon wasn’t going to be easy, but it didn’t have to be a PR nightmare. Richards’ snake-like move sullied more than himself. It put the production into a crisis that will linger. His selfishness, not to mention crude words in the recording, means the new, new host will have to put in additional effort to regain a loyal fan base’s trust. As of this writing, he remains EP, and that doesn’t bode well for quick crisis recovery. Add to that, another controversial figure, actress and physician Mayim Bialik, who was slated to host Jeopardy! specials and has reportedly been named to host in the interim. She drags in her own controversies. An otherwise seamless show has accumulated more wrinkles in a week than it has in its 57-year history.

Jeopardy! could have avoided this fiasco had it properly vetted Richards and took the findings seriously. Will it continue this questionable path, or will it further butcher a reputation that Trebek and others groomed and worked so hard to protect?

Crisis communications consultant, report to Jeopardy! studios, stat.
 Crisis is always lurking. Hopefully yours isn’t major, but it pays reputation and monetary sense to be prepared for anything. But how? Please, let’s talk.

Share on:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Categories