After the follow-up debacle on “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 took over as a temporary presenter this season with one simple goal: not to attract too much attention .
Her job, as she sees it, is simply to provide the clues and she has preferred muted colors like navy blue to the electric pink she wore last season. “I didn’t mean to distract – like, ‘Oh my god, there is this lady!'” Bialik said in a recent interview. “I think a lot about ‘Jeopardy!’ just has to be very neutral to pleasant. “
Neutral to pleasant: It is a suitable sentence for “Jeopardy!”, A sober television program. But the show’s efforts to find a successor for the beloved presenter Alex Trebek, who died last year, were hardly promising. In August it was announced that Mike Richards would get the job and that Bialik would be running 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 moderator and at the same time made it clear that she would like to have the top job permanently.
But Bialik – a popular sitcom actor who blogged when blogging was popular, vlogging was popular when vlogging was and now has her own podcast – has long drawn attention and controversy with numerous public statements of his own. Almost a decade ago, she wrote in a book about an “informed choice not to vaccinate our children,” which led her to clarify 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 advocated a “brain health supplement” earlier this year for a company that agreed to settle a class action lawsuit accusing it of false advertising.
The review of her many previous statements is now the newest chapter in the saga that depicts the game show’s attempts to find a presenter to stay.
“Right now we have someone who is absolutely free of controversy, Mayim Bialik,” John Oliver joked on a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, describing her as “a person I think is great because I don’t have her Google. “
The show has not publicly addressed the criticism, and Bialik’s episodes have seen a slight increase in ratings compared to the five episodes Richards recorded before leaving (likely aided by candidate Matt Amodio’s long winning streak that ended on Monday ). Bialik – who hopes to become the first woman to permanently get the top job at “Jeopardy!” – joked in an interview that the public control could have been worse.
“I believe to myself and my publicist, Heather, that there isn’t much more,” laughed Bialik. “I’ve been talking for a long time.”
Bialik has been in the public eye for decades. In 1990 she became the young star of the network sitcom “Blossom”. She later spent years as a character in “The Big Bang Theory”. But their freely shared opinions have often drawn criticism.
“Our culture has lacked the concept of subtlety and nuances for many, many years,” she complained in an interview.
The show recently announced that Bialik would remain as the host until November 5; She then shares hosting responsibilities with Ken Jennings, a former champion who is also considered a contender for the top job, until the end of the year. Part of the challenge for Bialik – and anyone applying for the job – will be comparing it to Trebek, who began hosting in 1984 and cultivated the image of an impeccably impartial omniscient narrator.
Bialik, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, has a sober way of speaking that suggests the kind of authoritative intelligence Trebek projected as a host. Her acting experience – she is currently on a Fox sitcom called “Call Me Kat” – has brought her used to the demands of television on set. Bialik called the “Danger!” Job a “combination of everything I’ve ever worked for”.
But her willingness to publicly express her opinion on everything from parenting to conflict in the Middle East is a striking departure from Trebek’s rehearsed neutrality. In his End of Life memoir, Trebek wrote that he held his opinion so close to his chest that he received letters from Republican viewers who thought he was a Republican and Democratic viewers thought he was a Democrat (he was an Independent).
Googling Bialik’s name reveals extensive archives of written and recorded thoughts on topics such as her positions on shaving, the Fifty Shades of Gray movie, swearing, online dating, third wave feminism, female sexuality, pop music, and a billboard featuring Ariana Grande in a revealing outfit. An essay that she wrote in the New York Times in 2017, “Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World,” complained about the objectification of women in Hollywood and stated her personal choice to dress modestly, sparked criticism; Bialik later made it clear that the only people responsible for assaults are “the predators who commit these horrific acts”.
She has shared countless personal details, talking about her divorce, struggles with aging and body image, and her approach to parenting. That year she started a mental health podcast where she spoke openly about dealing with anxiety and an eating disorder.
For several years, Bialik largely disappeared from Hollywood. She received her PhD, had two children, and expected to spend the rest of her career teaching Hebrew and piano until she appeared on The Big Bang Theory in 2010. The episode arc on the CBS sitcom got nine years and four Emmy nominations.
Bialik never ended up in the academic world as she once imagined, but she often cites her doctoral thesis in her books on parenting and youth development and their belonging to groups or products. (“Neuriva is the brain supplement trusted by a real neuroscientist – me!” She says in an ad for the company whose claims were previously described as “pseudoscience” in Psychology Today.)
Before their endorsement of Neuriva was announced, the company behind the product, Reckitt Benckiser, was sued in a class action lawsuit in which plaintiffs alleged there was no solid evidence that the supplement improved brain performance. The company, which denied malpractice, agreed to label the ingredients in the product as “clinically tested” rather than “clinically proven”.
The search for a new “danger!” Host
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New hosts have been announced. After the guest host parade ended, the game show decided it would take not one – but two – people to fill Trebek’s footsteps: Mike Richards, the show’s executive producer, would become its new regular host, and actress Mayim Bialik would take over for prime time specials.
The search continues. Ms. Bialik has made it clear that she wants the top job all the time, but a review of her many previous statements – including questioning vaccines and advocating a controversial brain supplement – is now the latest chapter in the saga depicting the game show’s attempts to to do this, find a host who stays.
Bialik said she remains an advocate – she signed a letter of commitment – and that she consulted a medical panel on the addition before signing it. “It’s exactly what it says: it’s a supplement with components that are perfectly healthy for your brain,” she said. “I make no claims and I have not said that it cures anything.”
In her 2012 book Beyond the Sling on attachment education, Bialik wrote that she and her husband had decided then not to vaccinate their sons; She later rejected the “anti-vaccine” label. In response to recent criticism, Bialik, who teaches her sons at home, said she wanted to “scream from the rooftops” over a video she recorded last year claiming to clarify her position.
In the video, she says that she and her sons would receive the coronavirus and flu vaccines. “The truth is, just because you followed me on social media, I’ve postponed vaccinations for reasons you wouldn’t necessarily learn about,” she said. Now she said in the video, “My children may not have all of the vaccinations your children have, but my children are vaccinated.” She then added that she believed “we are giving way too many vaccines”.
During the interview, Bialik said that her manager at “Jeopardy!” Hadn’t asked her to tone down her openness as the current face of the show, but that it was something she had been thinking about.
Two issues that Bialik has often dealt with in public are her devotion to Judaism and social pressures on the appearance of women. But when asked about her reaction to the departure of Richards – who made a joke on his podcast about an anti-Semitic stereotype about the size of Jewish noses, along with humiliating comments about women’s bodies – she declined to share her opinion.
“I had a reaction, but I don’t really feel like it’s for public consumption,” she said. “It may complicate any discussion of trying to vote for ‘Jeopardy!’ return to a state of normalcy. And that’s why I respectfully decide not to talk about it. “