Mike Richards’s first (and only) week as official host of Jeopardy! was a ratings winner — though odds are the show’s success had very little to do with the ousted emcee/exec producer. Per Nielsen, the iconic game show drew 8.4 million viewers during the first week of its 2021–22 season (September 13–19), slightly up compared to the same week a year ago (8.2 million). While there were no doubt a few rubberneckers who tuned in to see the beginning (and end) of the Richards era, it seems more likely the show’s strong performance was driven by interest in contestant Matt Amodio, who is currently in the middle of the longest Jeopardy! winning streak since Las Vegan James Holzhauer dominated the game back in the spring of 2019.
The exact reason for the show’s strong start to the season is impossible to determine, but Nielsen numbers often tick up whenever a player is on a tear, particularly if said player generates media buzz. All the drama surrounding Jeopardy! in the month leading up to the season premiere may have raised awareness of the show, but what these numbers more likely underscore is that, despite all the (justified) Sturm und Drang over Richards and the overall process of picking a successor to Alex Trebek, the Jeopardy! audience clearly hasn’t abandoned the show. Just the opposite: The quizzer was the only game show up compared to last season’s premiere week, and it remained the No. 2 show in syndication in the genre, narrowing the gap with top-rated Family Feud, which ticked down a bit versus its 2020 ratings. There is no guarantee these numbers will stay strong, since Amodio will eventually lose and whoever Sony Pictures Television selects as host may not be able to hold on to all of Trebek’s audience. There’s also the reality that linear ratings continue to decline, even for powerful franchises. But for now, at least, all is calm on the Jeopardy!-ratings front.