Ask Matt: Reaction to the ‘Jeopardy!’ Debacle

Jeopardy Ken Jennings Mayim Bialik Mike Richards
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/or Fridays.

The Jeopardy! Mess

Question: What do you make of Mike Richards stepping down from Jeopardy! as permanent host? — Shawn M

Matt Roush: That’s what I like, a question that gets right to the point. Simply put, this is an embarrassing mess, which might have been avoided if the Sony executives had done more careful vetting, and my greatest wish is that Jeopardy! move beyond it as quickly as possible so we can focus on what truly matters — the game itself, and currently, the winning streak of Matt Amodio, who has been a blessing during this period. (Letting Mayim Bialik carry the ball for several weeks after the one-and-done Mike Richards opening week seems a good stopgap measure.)

I hate that controversy is sullying one of my favorite things on TV, but they had no choice but for Richards to step aside. I figured the main reason he was chosen in the first place, beyond possible internal office politics, was because he was the least likely candidate to pull focus from the show itself, and when all of that negative publicity over his past actions emerged, the exact opposite happened. Richards was initially seen as the safe choice, a seasoned game-show host, but the cloud of suspicion that he had somehow rigged the process, the disappointment from those rooting for more celebrated or diverse talent (most notably LeVar Burton) and then the firestorm over Richards’ past created a perfect storm of backlash that the show couldn’t endure. I’ve given up predicting what comes next in this sorry situation. I’ll just be glad when this firestorm subsides.

Question: Why doesn’t Jeopardy! stop messing around and just put in Ken Jennings? He was the most relaxed and knowledgeable of all the guests. He interacted with the contestants the best. Mike Richards did not have the gravitas to do Jeopardy! He was better suited to Wheel of Fortune or something similar with a lighter setting. And Mayim Bialik was quite stiff. She seemed uncomfortable the entire time. She has the smarts, but the easy interaction with the contestants was not there. Let’s just hurry up and get Ken in there and get back to the show we love. — Connie K

Matt Roush: There are as many opinions as there are fans of Jeopardy!, and I would respectfully disagree with this assessment of Mayim Bialik, who I found delightful, engaging and really into the game and the experience. She was among my favorites, and I’m glad she’s there to take some of the pressure off during the first month of the new season. But I also felt Ken Jennings did very well, and his Jeopardy! credentials would seem to make him a more than viable candidate. His stewardship in those first weeks of games airing after Alex Trebek’s death was essential for that difficult season to move forward. I noted earlier that I’ve given up predicting the next twist in this ongoing story, but Ken should not be underestimated. Neither, obviously, should Mayim Bialik.

Question: Am I the only one who would have liked to see Joe Buck hosting Jeopardy! permanently? I knew there wasn’t any chance of it happening, but I love the sense of humor he injected into the show without taking anything away from the contestants or sacrificing professionalism. — Unsigned

Matt Roush: I enjoyed Joe Buck’s week a lot. His personality is way too big for Jeopardy! on a full-time basis, but he certainly made the season’s final week enjoyable and he obviously had a blast, as did the players. Despite the current debacle, I’ll look back at the guest-host period with some affection, because these celebrities reminded us in what high regard so many people hold Jeopardy! and what’s at stake in ensuring that it continues for many more decades.

[Spoiler Alert]: An Unforgettable Star

Question: I was shocked by the ending in the great British Masterpiece Mystery! series Unforgotten. [Spoiler Alert] I’ve read that it will be returning but will it have a whole new cast? Can’t imagine it continuing without the fantastic Nicole Walker. — Unsigned

Matt Roush: [Spoiler Alert] The series will continue without Nicola Walker as cold-case team leader Cassie Stuart. (Here’s our exit interview with the terrific actress in which she explains her own feelings about leaving the series.) As in reality, life goes on, even when we lose someone near and dear. I expect Cassie’s partner, Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar), will now take lead as Unforgotten moves on, though I won’t be surprised should the producers lock in another major talent to join him. Walker will be terribly missed, but she could hardly have hoped for a more emotional send-off.

Did Sandra Give Up Eve for Academia?

Question: With Sandra Oh starring in the Netflix series The Chair, does this mean Killing Eve won’t be back? I sure will miss the terrific Jodie Comer if that’s the case. — Unsigned

Matt Roush: Sandra Oh was able to film the six episodes of The Chair between seasons of Killing Eve. But steel yourself, because the fourth season of Eve currently in production will be the last. Even so, this won’t be the last you’ll see of Jodie Comer (or Oh, for that matter). This series put Jodie on everyone’s radar, and I can’t wait to see what she does next. (She’s currently co-starring in the hit movie Free Guy, so don’t be surprised if a major movie career is in her future.)

Those Strangers Are Perfectly Offensive

Question: My husband and I were intrigued with the first episode of Nine Perfect Strangers last Wednesday; however, we are thinking of forgoing the rest of the series. The gratuitous use of the F-word was off-putting and juvenile. Is there a way to watch a cleaned-up version? I felt like I was back in high school. — Ellen C, Portage, MI

Matt Roush: When you enter the wild world of streaming, and premium (or even much basic) cable these days, you’re taking your chances. There is no sanitized TV to my knowledge, and the series is plainly labeled with a “TV-MA” rating. While I won’t excuse their excesses, these are meant to be deeply troubled and damaged people who’ve come to Tranquillum House to clean up their act, so expecting them to be on their best behavior seems a lot to ask. (And what high school did you go to?)

AMC Marginalizing Its Dramas?

Question: I’m curious if you have any thoughts regarding the future of programs that premiere on AMC+ that eventually make their way to AMC (either on a week’s delay or by several months). Particularly I’ve noticed that both Gangs of London and The Beast Must Die were both moved from 10 pm/ET time slots on Sunday and Monday respectively to midnight. In the age of DVR and on demand, this is not necessarily a problem, but I’m guessing the ratings for these shows were not very good if a second showing of Fear the Walking Dead and older films were thought to be a better fit for the time slot. Do you think we’ll see fewer shows make the jump from AMC+ to AMC — a shame as there are a few I was hoping to catch — or will they just air in a late-night slot that will require some time-shifted viewing? — Rob

Matt Roush: I’ve seen this happen before on AMC and a few other basic-cable outlets — and often without any notice, which frustrates me no end even in an age where we let our DVRs do the heavy lifting — when a show is apparently underperforming and it ends up moving to a later time period. It’s also a sign, if it weren’t already obvious, that companies like AMC Networks are prioritizing their streaming platforms above all else, and that’s likely only to become much more pronounced in our digital future. I often check to see if AMC+ or Sundance Now shows will get a second window on their linear channels, and I really haven’t a clue whether this will become more or less frequent. I’m frankly surprised that something as bizarre as the stop-motion animated baby-doll noir curiosity Ultra City Smiths is heading to AMC in September. But at least they’ve already scheduled it in the 11/10c slot to begin with.

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.)

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