Mayim Bialik Just Broke Her Silence on the "Jeopardy!" Hosting Scandal
Newly announced host Mike Richards left the show after a series of controversies.
After a lot of drama and many changes over the past couple of months, Mayim Bialik is one of the new hosts of Jeopardy!—at least for now. In August, executive producer Mike Richards was named the new permanent host of the daily game show, while Bialik was tapped to host special events, such as the National College Championship. But, as more information came out about Richards' past—including involvement in a discrimination lawsuit during his time on The Price Is Right and offensive comments on his former podcast—Richards stepped down as host after only filming a few episodes and left as executive producer a week after that.
Bialik didn't say much publicly about the show as all of this was going on, opting only to voice her excitement over being chosen for her role. But now, as she begins as one of the temporary hosts for the remainder of the year, she has shared more of her thoughts on the scandal in an interview with Glamour and in an essay she wrote for Newsweek. Read on to find out what she said.
She's spoken with Richards since he left the show.
In her interview with Glamour, Bialik revealed that she has spoken to Richards since he left the show completely, but said she didn't want to share the content of their conversation. Bialik, who is Jewish, was also asked about offensive comments Richards made about Jewish people and women on his podcast and whether she said anything to him when the Ringer report about his podcast came out.
"I think not commenting is the safest thing to do," she said. "In his capacity as producer, I, of course, still had to work with him and speak with him and interact with him [after that report came out]. But that's because I'm a head-down kind of person, meaning I had to continue to work in the capacity that I did until he was no longer the person literally in my ear."
She doesn't believe her hiring was "saving face."
When Jeopardy! was handed over to a diverse series of guest hosts earlier this year in the search for a permanent host, many fans were hopeful that Alex Trebek's replacement would be a woman or someone who isn't white. So, when it was announced that Richards would host the main show, while Bialik would host specials, it was interpreted by some as the show giving a woman a new role for the sake of optics. Bialik has said this is not the case.
"What I can say is that there's a lot more to all of these conversations than the public gets to know, and there's no component of saving face that's been part of this decision," she told Glamour. "Obviously people don't have to believe me, but yeah."
Bialik also said that she was not aware that Richards wanted the job for himself.
"No, I had no idea," she explained. "I went in with my head down. I do what's in front of me, and that's just how I did it. I was basically relying on my 15-year-old, who's the one who told me I should guest-host Jeopardy!. I was relying on him telling me what the internet said."
The scandal has put some stress on her.
Bialik made clear in the interview and the essay that she didn't follow all of the Jeopardy! drama too closely, but that being part of it has taken a toll on her, especially because she was helping her boyfriend recover from hip surgery while all of this was going on.
"It's definitely been stressful, but I don't want to come off as someone who's like, 'This has been so hard for me and my family.' Because it really hasn't," she told Glamour. "Yeah, the press that the court of public opinion has sort of engaged in has been challenging. It's been challenging especially because I used to be the kind of person to defend myself vociferously when people said things about me that were blatantly untrue. But what I've learned is that it's best not to engage."
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She's still after the full-time job.
For now, Bialik is still just a guest host along with former champion Ken Jennings—they will split hosting duties through the end of the year. But, she would like to have the gig full-time, and she made that very clear.
"When I left The Big Bang Theory, I said that there would never be another job like it," Bialik wrote in a Sept. 20 piece for Newsweek. "It was the best job I had ever had, besides being a parent. I can now say that there is no other job I'd rather have than this job on Jeopardy!. I joke that I would give up my first child to host permanently! I think my son and I have a close enough bond that he will come back to me!"
The actor also told Glamour, "There's no other job I would rather have. I love my sitcom work, I do. I love all the other things I do. I love the podcast. But I absolutely have never had a better job." Currently, Bialik stars on the Fox show Call Me Kat. She is also a neuroscientist hosting a science podcast called Mayim Bialik's Breakdown, and she believes the combination of her two areas of expertise makes her perfect for the job. "It is a dream job. I think it's a dream job for anyone, but especially for someone who is trained first as a performer and then as a science communicator," she told the magazine.
She wants to make life easier for the Jeopardy! team.
With the scandal involving Richards, Jeopardy! was a bit chaotic for a while. Bialik said that she feels that in her job as a host, she wants to help ease matters for the show's other employees. "My job is to make everyone feel like it's business as usual," she said in the Glamour interview. She also wrote for Newsweek, "The way I see it is that I am in service in this job; in service to the clues and the contestants. Even though there is so much talk about me, I really feel like this is the job that is least about me."