Friday, January 21, 2022


"Dinosaurus Imperiosus", 1905 paper, eh...- what paper, "On the Origin of Species"? No, that don't sound right. Dinosaur, eh, imperious, oh, imposing,- T-Rex? Imperiosis, imposing, large in size oh, mammoth! It could be a Wooly Mammoth? Right? Oh no, that's not a scientific name. What's a scientific name for a mamm-, nah, it wouldn't be that. It's gotta be Tyrannosaurus Rex then, what is a tyrannosaurus rex?

Whew! Got it this time, barely! I almost tripped myself up outthinking that one.  


I miss Alex Trebek. I've been watching "Jeopardy!" since I was a kid, and it's still the greatest gameshow of all time. I actually once dressed up as Alex Trebek for Halloween back in first grade. I don't have a photo to prove it or anything, but trust me, it was, cute. It's one of the few times I actually enjoyed my Halloween costume. I don't watch regularly anymore, but I also to at least watch once in a while and I always try the Final Jeopardy question on Youtube every night. His passing in late 2020 hit me hard, and like everybody else that's even a moderate fan, I watched a lot of the guest hosts who came in, both in homage and as pseudo auditions over, and I also spent time watching any Alex Trebek footage I could find, for instance, one of his last projects was the TV documentary "Game Changers", which aired on BUZZR where he interviews some other legendary and more recent game show hosting greats and gives us a brief overview of the history of the genre. Somebody posted it on Youtube if anybody wants to look for it, and it's also on for free. It's light of course, but if you're a gameshow guy/gal or just fascinated by TV history, it's worth looking up and enjoying, and it's nice to see some of the last interviews with people like Monty Hall, Regis Philbin, Alan Thicke, who people might be surprised has a game show history, (He hosted a little, wrote some music for some game shows, and was even a writer on the early '70s version of "The Joker's Wild") and of course, Alex Trebek himself. He loved being a game show host and he was good at it, and "Jeopardy!" would be a lot different without him. Literally, 'cause people forget that the original version of "Jeopardy!", that aired for eleven years, while still the same basic game, still felt much more like a traditional game show, and from some reports Art Fleming, didn't like the direction that the show and Trebek had taken the series. 

Under Alex, "Jeopardy!" wasn't just another trivia game show, where the idea was to just win money and be on TV, with lights and prizes and whatnot. It was more about the questions and answers, or the answers and questions I should say. The show became intellectual in it's approach, America's Nightly IQ Test as it's often been called. It's not regarded in the same way as other game shows, it's become a part of our daily routine and our culture in a way that's virtually unprecedented. It's something that's high-minded, intellectual, competitive and challenging. It quenches our epistemophillic urges. It's not a flash-in-the-pan, reality show, it's not a tense gimmick that shamefully prolongs the time and agony like "...Millionaire" or some or "Deal or No Deal" or whatever, it's your daily mind test and under Alex Trebek, he kept it about that. It means something to be good at "Jeopardy!" as opposed to being good or lucky on other game shows. 

So, how the hell did they completely bobble this transition? 

I know, I'm, mostly late to this, but can we go back and really take another look at how poorly this was handled? 'Cause this really needs a look back. I don't think anybody reasonable thought that this search for the next host of "Jeopardy!" was going to be done, well, I mean, Alex is irreplaceable, and there was never going to be a 100% surefire solid choice that was going to satisfy everybody, but even still, how did this thing get so mangled and jumbled up? 

So for those, who didn't pay as much attention during this time, after Alex's passing, it was announced that there would be a rotating list of guest hosts for the show while they seek out and determine a permanent replacement, and ergo, these guest hosts, would ergo, in-a-sense also be considered pseudo auditions for the job, but that is jumping a bit because I don't think everybody who guest hosted was expecting or hoping to get the job. Some were, but some were there to just fill in and in essence honor and pay tribute to Alex, and maybe just try some new challenge. That doesn't mean any of them were good or bad, and it's understandable; anybody who loved "Jeopardy!" and loved Alex Trebek would like to hold down the fort for a little while as their own personal tribute. This was obviously the case with Ken Jennings and Buzzy Cohen, two former legendary "Jeopardy!" champions who filled in, and Jennings had been a Consulting Producer on the show for the last year before Alex's passing, and also, he just has more-then-enough game show experience to fill in, as he's often been used as a professional contestant or expert on several game shows since his, as-of-this-writing, still-record 74-game winning streak on the show. (Although Amy Schneider looks pretty damn unstoppable right now), but others like Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper, Savannah Guthrie, Robin Roberts, I suspect, probably just thought it would be an honor to fill in Alex's seat. (Some guest hosts, including Mayim Bialik who currently, along with Ken Jennings, rotates as the show's regular hosts, did the gig under the condition that the show match the contestants' winning and donate them to a charity of their choice, so there was incentives beyond just, auditioning for the gig for some of these guest hosts as well.)

There was one indisputable misstep in this guest host search when Dr. Memhet Oz was guest hosting; much of this revolved around his complete hypocrisy and position as a snake-oil salesman, among many of his personal scandals he's had, but he also wasn't particularly good at the hosting gig as well. After a petition, Levar Burton got an audition as host for a week; he did okay and I suspect given a longer time might've gotten used to the gig; he definitely, image-wise seems like a good fit to replace Alex, who was known both for his education astuteness and his pleasant and beloved demeanor, but that doesn't necessarily mean someone can be a good host. 

I do actually, want to get to that point more, later on, but in terms of other oddities with the guest host rotation, Aaron Rodgers stands out a bit, 'cause while I did think he did better then expected, this gig, which he was confident he had a shot at getting, seemed mostly to be done because he was in a contract dispute/disagreement with the Green Bay Packers, that inevitably subsided, for now, but there were definitely a couple people who took the audition part of this gig, and saw career-advancement too. So, it wasn't just people filling in because they loved Alex. 

Inevitably, the job went to, Mike Richards, the show's executive producer. So, the guy who was in charge of the search, picking himself for the gig. That was the first red flag, but within days, there were a bunch more. I'll leave this "The Ringer" article here, as one brief summary of Richards's escapades and shenanigans in front of and behind the camera, and not to mention on his podcast that he did years earlier, and...- I don't know exactly how to say this, but the more you look into Mike Richards, the more it seems like he might be the reason for all the worst aspects of all your favorite game shows over the years. 

I'm not even exaggerating and it's not even just "Jeopardy!"! For an anecdotal example, he was also, before resigning or getting fired, whatever technically it was, the executive producer of "Wheel of Fortune" at the time, "Jeopardy!" longtime sister show, and- well, the last time I talked about these shows, on this blogpost back in 2019, I was very critical of "Wheel of Fortune" and how that show has seemingly gotten lost in a bunch in a bunch of it's own gimmicks that seem to overtake any of the actual enjoyment of solving puzzles. Well, I can't help but notice, that since Richards's departure, "Wheel of Fortune" has slowly started making some noticeable changes. They got rid of the Free Play wedge, which honestly sucked anyway, and thankfully they didn't replace it with anything studiper, Pat Sajak no longer makes a Final Spin when it's necessary, which is minor change, but it's something, and as much as I think they use too many of the Toss-Up Puzzles, they actually made them slightly more interesting offering an extra $4,000 for anybody who gets three toss-ups in a row. I think that kinda ruins it a bit making the toss-ups almost as important as the actual gameplay, but I still kinda like that twist. And they tried to change the music, and then they changed it back, 'cause that was a bad decision but, it's a start and it looks like they're working on getting the game back to some of it's original basics. I don't think Richards was entirely to blame for everything that had made "Wheel of Fortune" unwatchable in the last few years, but even there, you can definitely see that his removal from the program has led to some improvements. 

(Oh, also, if you check Wheel of Fortune's Youtube page, there's a lot of Maggie Sajak. Yeah, Pat's daughter. Yeah, remember when Pat missed tapings 'cause of a surgery and Vanna had to host for a week? Well, they his daughter fill-in for Vanna while she hosted for a few episode, and I think ever since then, they put her in charge of social media, or whatever. This has nothing to do with Richard, but yeah, whenever Pat retires, she's taking over; they're basically grooming her to take over, and it she seems like the kind who wants that kind of gig. I'm calling it now, so be prepared for that inevitable nepotism controversy.) 

Now, all this said, let's play Devil's Advocate for a second here, was Michael Richards, a bad choice for host of "Jeopardy!" Well, most every list I can find that ranked all the Guest Hosts had him near the top of their lists. I know quite a few people who thought he made a very good host. If you watch those episodes, he certainly wasn't incompetent, as he probably shouldn't have been since he was the show's executive producer. He had lots of game show experience behind the scenes even before he worked on "Jeopardy!". Also, he had hosting experience. 

Yeah, this wasn't his first game show hosting gig, which, admittedly I found surprising, 'cause I don't remember him hosting either. And then I looked up what he hosted and now I know why I don't remember him hosting. 

His first gig was something called "High School Reunion", a reality show that lasted six seasons over two runs on The WB, and later on TV Land. IMDB says he only hosted for four episodes, which is probably why I can't find a clip of him hosting it, and that kinda makes sense though; this was a dumb reality series that's basically some re-working of "The Surreal Life" or "Real World" or "Big Brother" or whatnot,... basically, his job wasn't necessary to begin with; those shows rarely had a host in a traditional sense either so.... 

He apparently had better luck, with, (Sigh)  "Beauty and the Geek".

Oh, why oh hell, has this show, been so lovingly preserved on Youtube no less, with every single episode of this series, across three different continents! (Sigh) Man, so much reality out there just does not age well, and I can't find foreign episodes of "Top Chef" to save my life, but this whole series is wholly available. Unbelievable. 

Anyway, he hosted the last three years of the American version of the show, for whatever that's worth. 

He also then hosted a very short-lived GSN reboot of "Pyramid" called "The Pyramid". Yeah, I did find an episode of that.

This isn't a particularly beloved reboot of "Pyramid", but it's not awful, and he's not terrible; there's definitely been worst versions of this show over the years, most notably the one Donnie Osmond hosted. (Which wasn't mostly his fault, but yeah, that version sucked.) 

He then hosted another briefly-run GSN show called "Divided". There's a few, not-so-great clips of that on Youtube, but "Divided" was a reboot of a pretty bad UK game show that also didn't last particularly long. Game Show Garbage did a pretty decent write of how bad that version of "Divided" was, (Although the clip he used of the three contestants so unable to come together that they lost all their money has been since taken down for copyright.) but basically, it was a far worst version of "Greed", that used altered versions of  the worst aspects of "Friend of Foe". Richards, is kinda okay in this, although he did, for some reason decide to wear Buddy Holly glasses for this hosting gig; I have no idea why....  

I do have a weird point that I'm making with this, and it's that, the thing is, Richards was one of the few people that they had guest host, who actually had game show hosting experience. There were a couple others, if you stretch game shows to reality shows (Which I would not) but like, nobody remember Anderson Cooper hosting the first two seasons of "The Mole" and something called "The CNN Quiz Show". Naturally, I'm still glad that Richards's no longer in the positions he had and his hopefully cancerous presence will no longer be in the game show world anytime soon, but I think it's important that, there was a decent chance that had the he not be so scummy to in-a-roundabout way fix the audition process for himself, there's a decent chance he could've won the hosting gig anyway. 

I don't entirely blame him, btw, although he clearly could've done a little better with the guest host audition process, (like why couldn't say Ben Bailey from "Ca$h Cab" been offered an audition? The guy who's hosted the best non-"Jeopardy!" trivia game show in the last couple decades, and had hosts that show while driving a cab!!!!! I think he could've handled "Jeopardy!") but frankly, there just isn't a lot of game shows out there anymore, and nor are there a decent group of game show hosts out there anymore.

Okay, that's a bit facetious, obviously, there are, game shows and there is a decent list of people who've hosted and possibly could hosts game shows if given the opportunity, but, certainly not like there used to be. Certainly not when "Jeopardy!" first went on the air. 

Not-to-mention that, "Jeopardy!" is not an easy game show to just come in and start hosting, especially without hosting experience. I don't know if it's the most difficult, but it's not an easy one. There's a lot of talking, you have to be both quick and paced when asking 61 questions/game, while occasionally keeping things lively and fun, while also keeping the game intense and serious, and especially true for the version that Alex had cultivated. 

That's another thing, it's hard to remember Alex hosting anything other then "Jeopardy!", but even if my lifetime, he hosted several game shows, and he hosted each one differently. My personal favorite Alex hosting gig, believe it or not, isn't "Jeopardy!", it's when he hosted "High Rollers" and looking back, while it was never a great game show, he hosted that show amazing well. 

This Alex Trebek looks and feels like an eccentric croupier running a high-stakes craps game, which is what works for "High Rollers". Back when daytime television especially basically was the domain of game shows, and there were dozens of game shows on the air, hosts worked on several different game shows, and depending on the show, they had to be particularly malleable, not just them fitting into the dynamics and aesthetics of the game show, but them fitting the game show into their own strengths as well. One of my favorite non-Trebek examples of this is Jim Perry, a very underrated game show host, who's most-known in America as the host for the original run of "Card Sharks" and the syndicated reboot of "Sale of the Century", which are the most remembered versions of both those shows. Two very different game shows and he hosted them so differently, that, for years I watched both shows and never realized that he hosted both of them. "Card Sharks" he had a similar vibe to Trebek on "High Rollers", as a friendly, Vegas-like card dealer, but then on "Sale of the Century" a show centered around shopping and prizes, and had a gimmick of tempting a contestant to sacrifice points in favor of a special automatic prize, he seemed more like a debonair salesman you'd see trying to sell you jewelry at a high-priced Rodeo Drive store, or on QVC late at night. In hindsight, I consider that an incredible hosting accomplishment, especially since he did both those shows, one after another, ("Card Sharks" from '78-'81, "Sale..." from '83-89) and while also hosting "Definition" a long-running game show up in Canada at the same. 

Trebek hosted several game shows before "Jeopardy!", hell, he hosted many of them, after "Jeopardy!", but he didn't host any of them, like he hosted "Jeopardy!". Also, there used to be several more game shows and game show hosts out there, who had experience like he did, and nowadays, most of them have passed on, other have retired, and game shows, for the most part, their just aren't as many of them, and therefore there's fewer hosts. And no, hosting reality shows, and hosting game shows, are very much two different things. Some people can do both quite well, Jeff Probst is a good example of this, (Another guy who I'm surprised didn't even get an audition week or two, especially since he hosted the good, albeit short-lived, "Rock & Roll Jeopardy!" spinoff on VH1 back in the day. [Yeah, "Jeopardy!" has more spinoff then you'd think it does.]) but they are very different skillsets. And it's not always a sure-thing on who can translate from one kind of hosting medium to another. Or any kind of entertainment medium to hosting a game show. 

Ken Jennings going from contestant-to-host, is a bit unusual although not unprecedented, although the only true example I can think of is Mike Reilly, a former 5-time "Jeopardy!" champion (Back when there was a 5-day champ limit on the show) who hosted a very short-lived bad game show version of "Monopoly" back in the early '90s, and the less said about him, the better. That said, he's had more then enough game show experience, and "Jeopardy!" experience and name credibility and skill to pull it off, and so far, he's doing a good job. Mayim Bialik, who had a surprisingly a decent amount game show experience beforehand, mostly as a celebrity contestant or panelist though, she was one of my favorite comes in when she's not scheduled to work on her current sitcom "Call Me Kat" comes in sporadically between runs of Jennings, and for special events and tournaments, so there's no permanent named yet, as of this writing. 

And even, neither of these hosts have evaded controversy either. Ken Jennings, has had several gaffs on Twitter over the years, here's an article detailing most of them, here, certainly nothing as obnoxious as Richards has had, but some that aren't particularly good. He's apologized for them, and in general, I suspect he's learned his lessons from them, although there is suspicion that the reason he's not named the permanent host is because of some of these gaffs and yeah, some of them are pretty insensitive. I think they were mostly poor attempts and humor, in my opinion, and I suspect he's more aware of what he says on there matters. 

Mayim Bialik, has had several controversies over the years, during this time as well. Hers are a little more uncomfortable to write about, but... firstly, she wrote an op-ed on Harvey Weinstein in 2017, that was particularly tone-deaf, admittedly, and leaned more towards victim-blaming then it should've, and said, perhaps intended in a more self-deprecatingly manner then it came out..., her words, that since she, "was never a 'perfect ten', and therefore wouldn't be subject to that kind of predating"

Ugh, to be fair, she's not the only person I've heard who's talked about her in terms of how she isn't particularly good-looking, so if I know people who've focused in on that, for whatever reason, then I'm sure she's probably endured that for much of her life and career, however unfortunate that is, but-yeah, she backpedaled heavily on this, and she frickin', and I hope I don't have to explain why that is a bad perspective on this is, but yeah, that's a bad op-ed take, mostly since I don't even want to type it. 

She's also written a bunch of parenting books, and is known for promoting something called "attachment parenting"; I- whatever, I don't know what that is...- I'm not looking it up, but apparently, within some of these texts, she mentioned that she was an anti-vaxxer. Which, oh boy, is it a bad time to be that... except, she's not. This complaint that's come up, I contend is bullshit, believe it or not.

Now, I'm very pro-vaccine and anti-vaxxers have been an arch-enemy of mine, much longer then this latest chain of anti-COVID vaccine morons out there, so keep that in mind that if I've giving leeway here.... I mean, she's a neoroscientist, so she knows about vaccines, and knows the science of them, and the thing is, while we like to think of science as an absolute, there are, at high-levels, disagreements though, and from everything I've read, her stance, is not anti-vaccine, in the sense that most of us would think of it. In fact, she's very pro-vaccines, however she is critical in certain situations about the amount of vaccines that young children get, and yes, I don't know what the standard is now, but I do remember that once-upon-a-time, the rule was that children needed to get eleven vaccine shots by the age of two. That does sound a little overprotective on the surface. Now I don't think I would advise anybody to wait, just because that sounds overprotective, and she doesn't either. She mentions having done her own research, and I tend to trust that she actually did research as opposed to say Kyrie Irving's definition of "research", and while I don't necessarily agree, I can understand where she's coming from. Certain vaccines might not actually be as necessary, at least at the age that they're recommended or instructed to be given at, or a disease that a vaccine protects, might be so insignificant in it's current form that needing a vaccine for it, might be over-protective. This position, is not one I agree with, but I certainly don't find it unreasonable. She's not anti-COVID vaccine, at all, she doesn't think vaccines cause autism or any other bullshit like that, she's got actual criticisms of vaccines that aren't entirely made up and even have some real scientific backing to them. She still vaccinates her kids and herself; this criticism of her is severely overblown and people who raise this critique of her are not doing it in good faith. 

There's also another questionable controversy with her, about her endorsement of Neuriva which is a bit of a scam brain-improvement supplement. See, this and some of these other controversies with Jennings...- while I think this is a legitimate criticism; I mean, if I'm knocking Dr. Oz for being a snake oil salesman, then yeah, Dr. Bialik selling her snake oil should be knocked too, but this mostly comes out of a notion that a celebrity promoting a questionable product is somehow below the level of a "Jeopardy!" of Alex Trebek in particular. 


Is it?! I mean, I love Alex Trebek, but he had sponsorships too. I'm sure Colonial Penn was good for him, and several of the people who had insurance through them, but let's face it, they're an insurance company, I'm sure somebody, somewhere has a horror story about them. 

And there's a couple others that you can argue about with Mayim, casting Dustin Hoffman in her feature film directing debut that's in post-production after he had been #MeToo'd for instance..., or her beliefs in Zoroastrianism, which I think it more benign then some might...- there's definitely an argument to be made that she's perhaps a bit too toxic for this job, I think it's still overblown,.., but that's not  the main issue. The main reason why this search was just, never going to be smooth, is really that, well, nearly anybody compared to the beloved vision of Alex Trebek is gonna seem lackluster in comparison. 

And by accounts I can fine, he lived up to that image. Trebek was beloved, he was ideal and was to most was pretty infallible. That's not remotely true, he had stumbles along the way, he had to correct his political stance once after an article made him seem like he was a Republican, when he in fact was an Independent who had voted for both parties over the years. He did a reportedly bad job as a debate moderator in the 2018 Pennsylvania Gubernatorial election, so much so he apologized for it. Obviously these are strange, minor blips on an otherwise illustrious career  He was good at being non-political, non-controversial, granted it was easier in a pre-social media age, but nah, Trebek was genuine and loved. He was personable, he was admirable, and for too many, I think trying to imagine anyone who doesn't live up to Trebek's high standards will always fail for them. I think that's just too high a standard, especially with so little options of people out there, who just don't have the game show hosting experience, at least, not right away, to master hosting "Jeopardy!" 

We're not gonna find a suitable replacement for Alex Trebek, but I think we're well on our way to finding a suitable "Jeopardy!" host, whether they stick with Jennings and Bialik together, or eventually pick one or the other, it seems like, Trebek's legacy of what he made "Jeopardy!" will continue on. And I especially feel that way knowing the Mike Richards is nowhere near the production anymore. Also, I think we've just got too big of a devoted "Jeopardy!" fanbase who are willing to protect his, and the show's legacy. It is fair to say that it is unlike any other game show ever, and as long as they keep that consistent, the answers, the questions, the daily doubles, the great contestants, and find a good talented host that epitomizes a fraction of what Alex was, then, I think "Jeopardy!" will inevitably make their way through this and be okay. I've mentioned before how little "Jeopardy!"'s changed over the years, this is a big change, but just because the host is changing doesn't mean the game will change, and thank goodness for that. 

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