Mayim Bialik Wants the ‘Jeopardy!’ Job. Is She ‘Neutral’ Enough?


After the succession debacle at “Jeopardy!” turned one in all tv’s most revered sport reveals right into a punchline on late-night speak reveals and at the Emmy Awards, Mayim Bialik took over as a brief host this season with a easy objective: not to attract an excessive amount of consideration to herself.

Her job, as she sees it, is to easily ship the clues, and she or he has been favoring subdued colours like navy blue over the electric-pink she wore final season. “I didn’t want to be distracting — like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s that lady!’” Bialik stated in a latest interview. “I think a lot about ‘Jeopardy!’ just needs to be very neutral to pleasant.”

Neutral to nice: It’s a becoming phrase for “Jeopardy!,” a staid tv staple. But the present’s efforts to discover a successor to Alex Trebek, the beloved host who died final yr, have hardly been both. In August it introduced Mike Richards would get the publish and that Bialik would lead prime time specials. Then the Richards appointment imploded over a collection of offensive feedback he had made on a podcast. Now Bialik has stepped in as an interim host, whereas making it clear that she would love the high job completely.

But Bialik — a well-liked sitcom actor who blogged when running a blog was standard, vlogged when vlogging was standard, and now has her personal podcast — has lengthy drawn consideration, and controversy, with copious public statements of her personal. Nearly a decade in the past she wrote in a e book of creating an “informed decision not to vaccinate our children,” prompting her to make clear final yr that they’d get vaccinated towards the coronavirus. She blogged about donating cash to purchase bulletproof vests for the Israel Defense Forces. She endorsed a “brain health supplement” earlier this yr for a corporation that agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing it of false promoting.

Scrutiny of her many previous statements has now change into the newest chapter in the saga that’s the sport present’s makes an attempt to discover a host who sticks.

“Right now we’ve got someone absolutely free of controversy, Mayim Bialik,” John Oliver joked on a latest episode of “Last Week Tonight,” happening to explain her as “a person I think is great because I don’t have Google.”

The present has not addressed the criticism publicly, and Bialik’s episodes have seen a slight rankings bump in comparison with the 5 episodes that Richards had taped earlier than his departure (possible helped by the successful streak of the reigning contestant, Matt Amodio). Bialik — who hopes to change into the first lady to completely get the high job on “Jeopardy!”— joked in an interview that the public scrutiny might have been worse.

“I credit me and my publicist, Heather, that like there really wasn’t a lot more,” Bialik laughed. “I’ve been talking for a long time.”

Bialik has been in the public eye for many years. She grew to become the younger star of a community sitcom, “Blossom” in 1990. Later, she spent years as a personality on the “The Big Bang Theory.” But her freely-shared opinions have typically attracted criticism.

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

The present not too long ago introduced that Bialik would proceed as host via Nov. 5; after that she’s going to cut up internet hosting duties with Ken Jennings, a former champion additionally seen as contender for the high job, till the finish of the yr. Part of the problem for Bialik — and anybody in the working for the job — will likely be the comparability to Trebek, who began as host in 1984 and cultivated the picture of an impeccably neutral omniscient narrator.

Bialik, who earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience, has a matter-of-fact method of talking that means the sort of authoritative intelligence Trebek projected as host. Her performing expertise — she is at present starring in a Fox sitcom known as “Call Me Kat” — has accustomed her to the on-set calls for of TV. Bialik known as the “Jeopardy!” job a “combination of everything I’ve ever worked for.”

But her willingness to share her opinions publicly on all the pieces from parenting to the battle in the Middle East represents a placing departure from the studied neutrality of Trebek. In his end-of-life memoir, Trebek wrote that he held his opinions so near his chest that he acquired letters from Republican viewers pondering he was Republican and Democratic viewers pondering he was a Democrat (he was an unbiased).

Googling Bialik’s identify brings up expansive archives of written and recorded ideas on topics together with her positions on shaving, the film “Fifty Shades of Grey,” swearing, on-line relationship, third-wave feminism, ladies’s sexuality, pop music, and a billboard that includes 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,” through which she lamented the objectification of girls in Hollywood and famous her private alternative to decorate modestly, prompted criticism; Bialik later clarified that the solely folks chargeable for assaults are “the predators who are committing those horrendous acts.”

She has shared myriad private particulars, discussing her divorce, her struggles with growing older and physique picture, and her method to elevating youngsters. This yr, she began a podcast about psychological well being, talking overtly about coping with anxiousness and an consuming dysfunction.

For a number of years, Bialik largely disappeared from Hollywood. She earned a Ph.D., had two youngsters and anticipated that she would possibly spend the remainder of her profession instructing Hebrew and piano, till she started showing in “The Big Bang Theory” in 2010. What was initially purported to be a two-episode arc on the CBS sitcom become 9 years and 4 Emmy nominations.

Bialik by no means ended up in academia, as she as soon as imagined she would, however she typically cites her doctorate in her books on parenting and adolescent growth and her affiliations with teams or merchandise. (“Neuriva is the brain supplement trusted by a real neuroscientist — me!” she says in an advert for the firm, whose claims had beforehand been described in Psychology Today as “pseudoscience”).

Before her endorsement of Neuriva was introduced, the firm behind the product, Reckitt Benckiser, was sued in a class-action case through which plaintiffs claimed that there was no stable proof that the complement improved mind efficiency. The firm, which denied wrongdoing, agreed to explain the product’s elements as “clinically tested” quite than “clinically proven.”

Bialik stated she stays an endorser — she signed onto a time period of dedication — and that she had consulted a panel of docs about the complement earlier than signing on. “It is exactly what it states that it is: It’s a supplement that has components that absolutely are healthy for your brain,” she stated. “I make no claims and haven’t made any claims that it cures anything.”

In her 2012 e book on attachment parenting, “Beyond the Sling,” Bialik wrote that she and her husband at the time had determined to not vaccinate their sons; she later rejected the label “anti-vaccine.” In response to latest criticism, Bialik, who dwelling colleges her sons, stated she needed to “shout from the rooftops” a couple of video she had recorded final yr which she claimed clarified her place.

In the video, she says she and her sons can be receiving the coronavirus and flu vaccines. “The truth is I delayed vaccinations for reasons that you don’t necessarily get to know about simply because you follow me on social media,” she stated. Now, she stated in the video, “my children may not have had every one of the vaccinations that your children have, but my children are vaccinated.” She then went on so as to add that she believes “we give way too many vaccines.”

During the interview, Bialik stated that her superiors at “Jeopardy!” had not requested her to tone down her outspokenness as the present face of the present, however that it was one thing she had been excited about.

Two subjects Bialik has typically weighed in on publicly are her devotion to Judaism and societal stress on ladies’s appearances. But when requested her response to the departure of Richards — who had made a joke on his podcast centered on an antisemitic stereotype about the dimension of Jewish noses, together with demeaning feedback about ladies’s our bodies — she declined to share her opinion.

“I had a reaction, but I don’t really feel like it’s for public consumption,” she stated. “It further potentially complicates any discussion about trying to return to a state of normalcy for ‘Jeopardy!’ And so I’m kind of respectfully choosing not to talk about it.”