Mayim Bialik wants the “Jeopardy! ” Job. Is it “neutral” enough?


After the estate debacle at “Jeopardy!” Turned one of television’s most respected game shows into a punchline on late night talk shows and at the Emmy Awards, Mayim Bialik has taken over as acting host this season with a simple goal: don’t draw too much attention to her.

Her job, she says, is simply to deliver the clues, and she favored subdued colors like navy blue over the electric pink she wore last season. “I didn’t want to be distracting – like, ‘Oh my God, there’s that lady!’” Bialik said in a recent interview. “I think a lot about ‘Jeopardy!’ just needs to be very neutral to pleasant.

Neutral to pleasant: that’s an apt phrase for “Jeopardy!”, A television staple. But neither has the show’s efforts to find a successor to Alex Trebek, the beloved animator who died last year. In August, he announced that Mike Richards would get the job and Bialik would run the prime-time specials. Then Richards’ appointment imploded over a series of offensive comments he made on a podcast. Now Bialik has stepped in as an interim host, making it clear that she would like to take the top job permanently.

But Bialik – a popular sitcom actress who blogged when blogging was popular, vlogged when vlogging was popular, and now has her own podcast – has long attracted attention and controversy, with many public statements. Almost ten years ago, she wrote in a book that she was making an “informed decision not to vaccinate our children”, prompting her to make it clear last year that they would be vaccinated against the coronavirus. She blogged about donating money to buy bulletproof vests for the Israel Defense Forces. She approved a “brain health supplement” earlier this year for a company that agreed to settle a class action lawsuit accusing it of false advertising.

Examining his many past statements has now become the final chapter in the saga which is the game show’s attempts to find a host that fits.

“Right now we have someone absolutely controversial, Mayim Bialik,” joked John Oliver on a recent episode of “Last Week Tonight,” before describing her as “someone I find. great because I don’t have Google. “

The show did not respond publicly to criticism, and episodes of Bialik saw a slight increase in ratings from the five episodes Richards recorded before he left (likely aided by the reigning contender’s winning streak. , Matt Amodio). Bialik – who hopes to become the first woman to permanently secure the top job on “Jeopardy!” – joked in an interview that the public review could have been worse.

“I credit myself and my publicist, Heather, that like there really wasn’t much more,” Bialik said with a laugh. “I’ve been talking for a long time.

Bialik has been in the public eye for decades. She became the young star of a network sitcom, “Blossom” in 1990. She later spent years as a character on “The Big Bang Theory”. But his freely shared opinions have often drawn criticism.

“The notion of subtlety and nuance is something that has been missing from our culture for many, many years now,” she lamented in the interview.

The show recently announced that Bialik will continue as host until November 5; after that, she will share hosting duties with Ken Jennings, a former champion also considered a candidate for the top job, until the end of the year. Part of the challenge for Bialik – and anyone vying for the job – will be comparing Trebek, who started as a host in 1984 and has cultivated the image of an impeccably impartial omniscient narrator.

Bialik, who obtained a doctorate. in neuroscience, has a pragmatic way of speaking that suggests the kind of authoritative intelligence Trebek projects as a host. Her acting experience – she currently stars in a Fox sitcom called “Call Me Kat” – has accustomed her to the demands of television on set. Bialik called the “Jeopardy! “Uses a” combination of everything I’ve ever worked for. “

But his willingness to publicly share his views on everything from parenthood to conflict in the Middle East represents a stark departure from Trebek’s studied neutrality. In his end-of-life memoirs, Trebek wrote that he held his opinions so close to his chest that he received letters from Republican viewers believing he was a Republican and from Democratic viewers believing he was a Democrat (he was independent).

Bialik’s name on Google brings a vast archive of written and recorded thoughts on topics such as his positions on shaving, the movie “Fifty Shades of Gray”, swearing, online dating, third wave feminism, female sexuality, pop music and a billboard featuring Ariana Grande in a revealing outfit. An essay she wrote in the New York Times in 2017, “Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World,” in which she lamented the objectification of women in Hollywood and noted her personal choice to dress modestly, drew some criticism. reviews; Bialik later clarified that the only people responsible for the attacks are “the predators who commit these horrific acts”.

She shared a myriad of personal details, discussing her divorce, her struggles with aging and body image, and her approach to raising children. This year, she started a podcast on mental health, speaking openly about managing anxiety and an eating disorder.

For several years, Bialik mostly disappeared from Hollywood. She earned a doctorate, had two children, and expected that she could spend the rest of her career teaching Hebrew and piano, until she began appearing in “The Big Bang. Theory “in 2010. What was originally supposed to be a two-arc episode on the CBS sitcom turned into nine years and four Emmy nominations.

Bialik never found herself in academia, as she once imagined, but she often cites her PhD in her books on parenting and adolescent development and her affiliations with groups or products. (“Neuriva is the brain supplement that a true neuroscientist trusts – me!

Prior to the announcement of its approval of Neuriva, the company behind the product, Reckitt Benckiser, was sued in a class action lawsuit in which the plaintiffs claimed there was no strong evidence that the supplement improved health outcomes. brain performance. The company, which has denied any wrongdoing, agreed to describe the product’s ingredients as “clinically tested” rather than “clinically proven.”

Bialik said she remained an endorser – she signed an enlistment agreement – and consulted with a group of doctors about the supplement before enlisting. “That’s exactly what it says: it’s a supplement that has components that are absolutely healthy for your brain,” she said. “I don’t and never claimed that it healed anything.”

In her 2012 book on parental attachment, “Beyond the Sling,” Bialik wrote that she and her husband at the time had decided not to vaccinate their sons; she then rejected the “anti-vaccine” label. Responding to recent criticism, Bialik, who homeschool her sons, said she wanted to “scream from the rooftops” about a video she recorded last year which she said clarified. his position.

In the video, she says she and her sons would receive the coronavirus and flu shots. “The truth is, I delayed the vaccinations for reasons you don’t necessarily know just because you follow me on social media,” she said. Now, she said in the video, “my children may not have received all the vaccines your children have, but my children are vaccinated.” She then added that she thought “we are giving way too many vaccines”.

During the interview, Bialik said his superiors of “Jeopardy!” hadn’t asked her to moderate her outspokenness as the show’s current face, but that it was something she had been thinking about.

Two topics that Bialik has often weighed in publicly are his devotion to Judaism and the pressure of society on the appearance of women. But when asked about her reaction to Richards’ departure – who joked on her podcast centered on an anti-Semitic stereotype about Jewish nose size, as well as humiliating comments about women’s bodies – she declined to share. his opinion.

“I had a reaction, but I don’t really feel like it’s for public consumption,” she said. “This potentially further complicates any discussion of attempting to return to normalcy for ‘Jeopardy!’ And so I respectfully choose not to talk about it. “


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