4 Things to Know About ‘Jeopardy!’ Boss Michael Davies

After a revolving door of guest hosts and a revolting scandal behind the scenes, Jeopardy! is finally stabilizing, with Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings splitting the hosting duties for the upcoming 39th season and Michael Davies entering his first season as the syndicated game show’s new executive producer.

Michael Davies announced his new role on the show’s J!Buzz blog this April, writing, “I am both honored and humbled by the faith the studio and the staff have put in me. Over the next few months, the scope of our plans will become clear.”

In a post this July, Davies outlined some of those plans, saying that he and his fellow producers were going to air their favorite episodes from the past season during summer re-runs, the Jeopardy! website would start hosting three-minute recaps of each episode, and the producers would be hosting a podcast called Inside Jeopardy!.

And last month, Davies announced a small but meaningful change: that Bialik would thank announcer Johnny Gilbert at the start of each episode while looking right at the camera, instead of addressing her thanks to an imaginary Gilbert off-screen. (The longtime Jeopardy! announcer records his intros from his home studio, not from the set of the game show.)

So, who is this man with all the ideas? Here’s what to know about Davies.

Jeopardy! creator Merv Griffin gave Davies his big break

In a J!Buzz blog post from last December, Davies, then the interim executive producer of Jeopardy!, told fans that he met the late Merv Griffin, creator of both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, more than 30 years prior. When Davies was 24 — and working as an assistant tennis pro in Florida as he plotted a career in TV writing — he got a job as a development associate at Merv Griffin Enterprises.

Davies recounted one of his first days at work, when he met Griffin for a poolside lunch at the Beverly Hilton, the Beverly Hills hotel that Griffin had purchased in 1987. “When the waiter came over and said, ‘May I take your order, sir?’ Merv cooed, ‘Ooooohhh’ in his signature baritone, and made a note in a small, leather-bound book,” Davies wrote. “Several months later, I saw the phrase reappear as a puzzle on Wheel of Fortune.”

Davies is the founder of the production company Embassy Row

Davies is the founder and president of Embassy Row, the production company behind unscripted series like Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, Talking Dead, and the new Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. In his April blog post, Davies said that the support of his colleagues “means that I have the resources and people to continue to run and build Embassy Row in New York and L.A., and all of its productions” while executive-producing Jeopardy!.

He also co-hosts a popular podcast and a TV show about soccer

With friend Roger Bennett, Davies hosts the Men in Blazers podcast, which, as they explain in the podcast description, is “driven by the belief that Soccer is America’s Sport of the Future. As it has been since 1972.”

Davies and Bennett met at a wedding in 2006 and bonded over how miserable they were to be missing the World Cup final that day. Their podcast launched in 2012 and made it to SiriusXM, and Davies and Bennett have hosted NBC Sports Network’s The Men in Blazers Show since 2014.

“I think the biggest thing is that when Roge and I are making each other laugh, making points that we’re interested in, talking to each other openly about our own lives, that on the whole — the most authentic stuff is the most entertaining,” Davies explained to Variety when the TV show launched. “We just focus on trying to make each other laugh — and when we make each other laugh, it seems to work with the audience.”

He doesn’t want to reimagine the show

Though Davies told fans on the J!Buzz blog that he wants to build and develop Jeopardy! to “take advantage of new platforms,” it sounds like he doesn’t want to fix what’s not broken.

Jeopardy! does not need to be imagined or reimagined,” he wrote. “It is honestly the most perfect idea, both classic and essentially modern. Its air is filled with a constant barrage of brilliant writing and a parade of memorable contestants … I have always known that the job of Executive Producing this show was to be a custodian of something that has meant so much to so many people for so long and to protect the work of those who created and built something so magical.”

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