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Heidi Venable

Do Ken Jennings Or Mayim Bialik Earn Better Ratings On Jeopardy!? EP Opens Up About Hosts And The ‘Incredible Fracture’ They Stepped Into

Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik

Jeopardy! fans were relieved to find some stability in the iconic quiz show last summer, when Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik were officially named permanent co-hosts. However, even ahead of that announcement, plenty of viewers had already begun to pit the Jeopardy! GOAT against The Big Bang Theory actress, voicing support for one to get the job over the other, and that’s a conversation that continues on message boards today. Executive producer Michael Davies is aware of the discord, and he revealed how audience preference plays into the ratings, as well as the “incredible fracture” that faced them when they started.

Both Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik have their passionate supporters — and often-loud critics — when they take their turn behind the lectern. But Michael Davies is the one behind the curtain keeping an eye on the all-important numbers, and he revealed to Vulture how the ratings are affected when one is hosting compared to the other, saying: 

One of the biggest things is the ratings of the show. When Ken is hosting and Mayim is hosting, there’s zero difference. It’s exactly the same and that’s the broadest part of the audience.

According to Michael Davies, there is no discernible difference in the ratings between Ken Jennings’ episodes and Mayim Bialik’s. It does seem natural that fans would have a preference, and it’s also pretty easy to believe that the game show’s loyal fans will tune in, regardless of if their preferred host is on that day. The EP seemed to confirm that, as he continued: 

I couldn’t give you an absolute number. We read data from everywhere. In terms of the tiny percentage of our audience that do go on Reddit or Twitter, there are Ken fans and there are Mayim fans. There are some people who love Jeopardy! and will watch both. We also have various fans who post that they don’t like either of them. That’s just part of the data we look at.

More than just the viewers’ preference, the contestants themselves have weighed in, with Jeopardy! Masters contestant Mattea Roach previously voicing their support for Ken Jennings, saying there’s something special about being on stage with one of the biggest winners in Jeopardy! history. Another recent contestant shared a blunt opinion about Mayim Bialik and the way she delivers the clues. Jennings, meanwhile, has had to defend himself against perceived mistakes multiple times. Michael Davies stands by both of his co-hosts, especially after what they and the rest of the crew endured after Alex Trebek’s death in 2020. He said: 

When I arrived, there had been an incredible fracture at the heart of Jeopardy! with the loss of Alex Trebek and then the awkward months of the summer of 2021. There was a lot of rebuilding to do. I stand by the decision to bring Ken in and have Ken be a second host along with Mayim. I back both of them. I go to the studio every day and try to make both of them better at hosting the show and make a better program environment around them. They have my full support.

Ken Jennings jumped in as a guest host following the death of the longtime host, and that was followed by a carousel of celebrities who were seemingly auditioning for a permanent spot. In the end, then-executive producer Mike Richards was named host of the syndicated episodes, with Mayim Bialik joining as the host of primetime tournaments. 

However, that plan was highly criticized, as it came amid the resurfacing of several offensive comments Mike Richards had made on a podcast years prior, in addition to discrimination lawsuits from his time on The Price Is Right. After just one day into his new role as host, Richards was fired from Jeopardy! and as EP of Wheel of Fortune, with Michael Davies taking the reins of the quiz show and adding Ken Jennings to assist Mayim Bialik on syndicated episodes. 

Those were tumultuous times, indeed, so regardless of fans’ preference between Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik, hopefully we can all agree the show has taken a step in the right direction. Check your local listings to find Jeopardy! in syndication, and Jeopardy! Masters is wrapping its first-season run at 8 p.m. ET May 23 and 24 on ABC. 

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