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"Jeopardy!" Producers Asked Mayim Bialik to "Chill" Amid Fan Backlash

Her hosting style put off fans, so producers offered some feedback.

Ever since she began hosting Jeopardy! regularly in Aug. 2021, Mayim Bialik has divided fans of the show. Of course, any new host was going to be an adjustment after Alex Trebek hosted the game show for 36 years, but some viewers were particularly bothered by Bialik's hosting style—especially compared to that of her co-host, Ken Jennings. One thing that stood out about Bialik was how she reacted to contestants when they responded to clues correctly: Rather than simply say "correct" and move on, Bialik tended to express her surprise and excitement at the contestants doing well.

As viewers may have noticed, Bialik's level of enthusiasm has since changed. A Jeopardy! producer just shared that this was intentional and something that the actor was spoken to about behind the scenes. Bialik has also talked about trying to "be more chill" when responding to the Jeopardy! players. Read on to discover how fan backlash changed her behavior.

RELATED: Why Jeopardy! Fans Think Mayim Bialik May Be Done Hosting for Good.

Bialik said she has made an effort to be calmer.

Mayim Bialik hosting "Jeopardy!" in March 2023

As reported by TV Insider, on a recent episode of the official Jeopardy! podcast, Inside Jeopardy!, a clip was played from one of the audience Q&As that take place during filming of the show. This episode of Inside Jeopardy! focused on audience Q&As overall and included several clips from the hosts' interactions with those attending the shows.

In one clip, Bialik responded to a question on what surprised her most about hosting Jeopardy!

"I did not expect to enjoy as much watching while I'm up there as much as I do, and it's hard not to get honestly starstruck by the contestants up here," she said. "And I have to remember that I can't be exceptionally surprised when they get things right, which I used to be. I used to be, like, 'Wow, yes, you got it!' So I try to be more chill about it.'"

RELATED: Jeopardy! Is Back, But Fans Are Boycotting—Here's Why.

A producer confirmed Bialik was told to change her responses.

Contestants on "Jeopardy!"
Jeopardy! / YouTube

Jeopardy! producer and Inside Jeopardy! host Sarah Whitcomb Foss confirmed that there was a conversation with Bialik about the way she responded to contestants.

"I can say this is really true for Mayim. She is constantly impressed and often even surprised at just how many things our Jeopardy! contestants can recall so quickly," Whitcomb Foss said. "So it was something that we talked about in the beginning. That, as impressive as it is, just say, 'Yes, correct, you got it.' Because they are amazing, and you are going to be continuously impressed by their knowledge."

RELATED: Mayim Bialik Slammed for Response to Jeopardy! Player: "So Rude."

Fans have been divided about Bialik.

Mayim Bialik hosting "Jeopardy!" in March 2023
Jeopardy! / YouTube

Bialik first hosted Jeopardy! in 2021 when the show was rotating through a series of guest hosts following the Nov. 2020 death of Trebek. Then, in summer 2021, Bialik and Jennings began splitting hosting duties following a short hosting stint from former executive producer Mike Richards. In July 2022, Bialik and Jennings were named as official co-hosts.

The reaction to Bialik as host has been divisive. Viewers have criticized her hosting style—including pausing before saying that an answer is correct and laughing while speaking to contestants—and called her "condescending." Some stated they won't watch the show when she is hosting.

RELATED: James Holzhauer Criticizes Jeopardy! Changes and Weaker Questions Amid Fan Backlash.

Bialik admitted she tones down her personality.

Mayim Bialik hosting "Jeopardy!"
Jeopardy! / YouTube

In another clip from a Q&A played on Inside Jeopardy!, Bialik answered a question about the most helpful or meaningful advice that she received about hosting. In response, she admitted that she tempers her personality while hosting.

"Well, usually, when people say 'be yourself,' that's supposed to be encouraging," she said while laughing. "But here, being myself is actually not what I want to be. I want to be the best Jeopardy! host I can be, which means kind of curbing a lot of the inner monologue and, in many cases, inner criticism about the way I say things, or the way I speak, or the way I'm trying to facilitate what we're doing here."

She added, "Be like Alex Trebek, I think is the best advice that I think about, to the best of my ability."

RELATED: 8 Most Awkward On-Air Jeopardy! Moments.

She is not currently hosting the show.

Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings in a September 2022 "Jeopardy!" video
Jeopardy! / YouTube

Bialik is not currently hosting Jeopardy! due to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes. Bialik stepped down from hosting when the WGA strike began in May. At that point, there was only one week left in filming for Season 39, and Jennings finished out the season.

In August, Season 40 began filming with Jennings as the host, and with the show using clues written before the strike began or recycled from previous episodes. The season also kicked off with a Second Chance tournament instead of featuring new contestants.

These decisions have led to backlash against the show, with Jennings himself criticized for crossing the picket line. He defended himself in a post on X (formerly Twitter) by pointing out that Trebek continued to host the show during the 2007-2008 WGA strike.

On Aug. 30, The Messenger reported that Bialik was unlikely to return to Jeopardy! this year.

"Mayim is choosing to stand with the actors like she did the writers and won't cross the picket lines. She hopes to return to Jeopardy! as soon as the strike has been resolved," a source said. "She wasn't fired. She's choosing to stand with her union, and because of that, she was told it is unlikely she will return for the rest of the year, even if the strike is resolved before then."

Best Life reached out to Jeopardy!'s production company Sony and to a rep for Bialik for comment, but did not receive a response.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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