Ask Matt: The Future of ‘Jeopardy!’ and Olympics on TV

Jeopardy!, Mayim Bialik
Jeopardy!, Inc.

Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic — also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist” — Matt Roush, who’ll try to address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape. (We know background music is too loud, but there’s always closed-captioning.)

One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won’t be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it’s already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and Fridays.

Mayim Bialik taking Jeopardy! in New Directions

Question: Mike Richards wouldn’t have been my pick as the new permanent Jeopardy! host, but he’ll do well and I can’t object to his hiring. My bigger question with the announcement is what these spin-offs/primetime shows for Mayim Bialik are going to be, because that was a complete surprise and a welcome one. I suppose it’s natural for ABC to want to continue featuring Jeopardy! in prime time after the success of the GOAT tournament. If they are going to do a college tournament in prime time, what other tournaments or events could they be thinking of sending there? I assume this is a long-term proposition because there would be no reason to have Mayim host for two weeks as a one-off. I actually liked her better than Richards as a guest host, but since she’s only doing primetime specials, maybe it will be easier for her to balance that with Call Me Kat which has been renewed. What do you think? — JL

Matt Roush: I’ve already explained my reasoning about why Mike Richards was the safe if unexciting choice. While many are understandably disappointed that Sony didn’t try to break ground with a woman or person of color in the full-time job, I’m also curious to see how they’ll expand the franchise with special network prime-time events and tournaments hosted by Mayim Bialik, who was also among my favorites during the guest-host period. Most of the comments I’ve received since the news broke are like this from Jan: “I am thrilled to find out that Mike Richards will be the next permanent host of Jeopardy! He was perfect for the job. In watching all the guest hosts, my choices were: Mike Richards first and Buzzy Cohen second.” Of course no choice was going to satisfy everyone, but I wasn’t surprised when they didn’t go with a celebrity, since Jeopardy! prides itself on making the contestants the “star.”

Question: I think it’s fine that Mike Richards will be the new host. But do you think the set and music should change or be updated somehow since this will be a new era, new beginnings? — Unsigned

Matt Roush: They’ve spiffed up the Jeopardy! set and music arrangements many times over the years, but I’m thinking they’ll make precious few adjustments this season, because a certain comfort level of continuity is important to the show — which could also explain why they ultimately went with the inside guy as host.

Tim in Atlanta, marveling at the fact that announcer Johnny Gilbert is 97 years old, wonders: “Any word on if he will stick with the announcing duties come the new season? Or is this the time for Johnny to step away so that Jeopardy! can bring on a new announcer since they will have a new host as well?”

Matt again: Currently, Johnny is still listed on the Jeopardy! website as the announcer, and until they make public a change, I’m hoping he’ll stick with the show for as long as he’s able — again, for continuity’s sake. He’s a legend within a legendary franchise, and Jeopardy! has withstood enough changes for the time being.

Will the Tokyo Ratings Affect Future Olympics on TV?

Question: Do you think the ratings decline for the recent Summer Olympics is enough for NBC to shift future coverage to streaming-only and/or for the other networks to offer counterprogramming and not put everything on hold for three weeks? — Tom F

Matt Roush: I know it might seem longer, but the Olympics only lasts for a little more than two weeks (over three weekends). This is an interesting question that I’m sure NBC is already grappling with. But no, given the investment NBC has put into the games, I’d expect they’ll continue making events available on multiple platforms while continuing the prime-time package on NBC, even though the time difference this winter in Beijing is going to be just as problematic as it was in Tokyo. The ratings slippage common to nearly everything on broadcast TV has finally caught up to the Olympics, and the circumstances of the Tokyo games — no spectators, big names dropping out, the “live/not live” factor — may have accelerated that.

As for counterprogramming, especially during the winter months when all of the networks are up and running with new programming, I’d bet NBC’s rivals won’t be nearly as cowed as they were in the past. They may still choose not to throw new episodes up against marquee events like figure skating, but I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t look more like business as usual — especially if NBC is stuck repackaging events whose results we’ve known all day, and possibly watched live on a streaming platform for those who are especially into the Olympics.

Mom, What Are You Doing Here?

Question: I see that Kate Burton will be guest-starring as Ellis Grey for “multiple episodes” on this season of Grey’s Anatomy. I have no issue with Kate Burton whatsoever. I liked her very much in her previous appearances on Grey’s and Scandal. But I swear, if they are going to do more of that ghost-on-the-beach nonsense stuff … I mean, really? Ellis died in Season 3. — Jake

Matt Roush: Like you, I’m a Kate Burton fan and there’s no question the legacy of Ellis Grey continues to loom large for Meredith and others who knew this legendary doctor when. Not being one to prejudge, I’ll keep an open mind about what her return signifies, and I hope it’s for a meaningful purpose. But yes, if it entails characters in limbo gazing at the surf in their best J. Crew khaki, I’m out.

More Scripted Summer TV, Please

Comment: I really enjoyed Fox’s new Fantasy Island and I will be back for more. It’s summer programming like this that I really look forward to watching. I’ve also been enjoying CW’s Burden of Truth. High-quality scripted shows are exactly what this summer needs. I feel the networks are going overboard with the seemingly endless game shows and contests. — Fred

Matt Roush: The ratings for Fantasy Island’s premiere were something short of fantastical, which underscores why most of the networks chose to skip launching expensive scripted shows during the summer, instead opting for a barrage of game shows and the usual reality fluff. For anyone seeking even a bit of variety in their network menu, it’s been slim pickings.

Chesapeake Without Jesse Is No Shore Thing

Comment: I was a fan of Chesapeake Shores until they decided to change the relationship between Trace (Jesse Metcalfe) and Abby (Meghan Ory) and bring in a new love interest for Abby. Trace and Abby were the #1 couple on the show and fans wanted to see them together. I see why Jesse is leaving. Very disappointed. I will not watch Chesapeake Shores anymore. — Karen

Matt Roush: I said the same thing when Patrick Dempsey was written out of Grey’s Anatomy, and somehow I’m still tuning in. Go figure. It’s always tough when a show built around a core romance loses one of its leading players — though according to our reporting, it was Jesse’s choice to leave — but the reset could bring new life to the show for the long run. Robert Buckley also has quite a bit of screen appeal, and wisely, he’s not playing a Trace clone. Still, if more fans bail like Karen, maybe they’ll someday woo Jesse back, because he continues to work for Hallmark on other projects including the Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries movies.

Joey’s No Two-Timer

Question: I have a question regarding the game show Celebrity Dating Game. How far in advance did they tape the shows because I see in the new TV Guide Magazine that the Aug. 16 season finale features Joey Lawrence. But I saw on Entertainment Tonight this week that he is engaged — and not to the lady who he will have picked. — Alice P, Ft. Myers, FL

Matt Roush: The Celebrity Dating Game reportedly filmed its episodes in February — which gave Joey plenty of time to find his new soulmate.

That’s all for now. We can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below. (Please include a first name with your question.)