Mike Richards didn't know that his first year executive producing Jeopardy! would end up being the same year that longtime host Alex Trebek would tragically pass away. Now as the final Trebek episodes are set to air, we still don't know who will ultimately replace Trebek as full-time host, though there will be a variety of guest hosts for the time being, and Richards revealed to EW what fans can expect from the guest host roster. He wasn't giving out many specific names, though he did tease what went into picking them as well as reveal it will start with Ken Jennings.
"Well, we start with Ken Jennings, who Alex and I had spoken about filling in for him and being a guest host a couple of times," Richards said. "So I felt very comfortable that Ken would be able to come in. He obviously knows the game, there's a familiarity to him to our fans, and he respects Alex so much and everybody knows it. [He’s] not going, 'Look, I'm the new host!' It's, 'I'm coming in, and I'm going to respectfully keep this great show going in honor of him.'"
"What I'll tell you is, for the guest hosts, we're gonna look at the things that Alex and I spoke about, which is people that are credible giving the clues, people that can actually give the clues accurately, that are going to be able to rule right or wrong on the responses, and that Jeopardy! fans will enjoy in that role, but that will not try to make themselves the star, and will work to make the contestants and the game the star," Richards said. "There'll be a wide range of, I think, big names that you'll go, 'Oh yeah, of course,' and then my hope is that there's a couple of, 'Oh, I hadn't thought of that person, and I'd like to see what that looks like hosting Jeopardy!' That’s the plan."
As for his successor, Trebek always stayed away from throwing names out there so as to not affect the process of finding the right host for the job.
"He wanted to be very careful to not weigh in on that," Richards said. "Not that he didn't care, because he cared at a very high level, [but] he knew how influential any suggestion he made would be, and he wanted us to come to it the way we wanted to, not because of what he wanted. So he and I spent a lot of time talking about what attributes a host should have, what we should look for, those types of things. He always said that the stars of Jeopardy! were the contestants and the game, not the host. We spent time talking about that, but he was very reticent to put out names. In fact, he said two names once, kind of off the cuff because I think they were just two people that were in his head, and he watched the firestorm that erupted around that. I think that was when he went, "Okay, I'm not going to do that to this process."
Trebek's final episodes of Jeopardy! will air Monday, January 4th to Friday, January 8th.