Remembering Alex Trebek
Well-known game show host Alex Trebek died on Nov. 8 at age 80 after a 20-month battle against stage four pancreatic cancer. He was surrounded in his Los Angeles home by family and friends.
He will be remembered mostly for hosting “Jeopardy!” since its revival in the 1980s, but his whole career spanned over 50 years.
The man known as Alex Trebek was born as George Alexander Trebek in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada on July 22, 1940. His first experience in broadcast came from his job at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation while attending college. He continued to work there after graduating and performed several roles in the company. One of his more notable functions was hosting the company’s music program “Music Hop,” among others.
Trebek began his career as a game show host when in 1966 he hosted the quiz show “Reach for the Top.” It featured him asking questions to Canadian high-school level students.
The individual responsible for bringing Trebek to the United States was his friend Alan Thicke. In 1973, NBC was holding host auditions for the show “The Wizard of Odds,” and Thicke believed that Trebek would be a good fit for the position. He won the role, but the show did not fare well, and Trebek moved on to other projects including “High Rollers.”
In 1984, a revival of “Jeopardy!” was planned after its initial run, which lasted for 10 years ending in 1974. Trebek was brought on to serve as the host by producer-host Merv Griffin, and at the time, Trebek believed that “the show wouldn’t last long.” Well, 37 years and over 8,000 episodes later, it’s safe to say he was wrong. It was paired with another Griffin production, “Wheel of Fortune,” and the show’s popularity grew.
Trebek did emcee for “To Tell the Truth” and “Classic Concentration” while maintaining his role in “Jeopardy!” This venture did not last long. He hosted the former for only one season, and “Classic Concentration” ended in 1991.
As the host of “Jeopardy!,” Trebek provided a formal feeling. Furthermore, the atmosphere was welcoming with him meeting the contestants after the first commercial break and never speaking with a demeaning or commending tone.
On occasion, he would allow his sense of humor to come out. In Feb. 2018, there was one episode with an entire category about football. The contestants saved it for last, and when they had no choice but to pick from it, none of them ringed in with the question for any of the answers. During the ordeal, Trebek chimed in with, “I can tell you are all football fans,” to which the audience laughed.
As the years went on, Trebek became acquainted with many of the show’s most memorable contestants. Among these are Brad Rutter for winning the most money, Ken Jennings, who holds the longest win streak of 74 games, and Watson, an International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) computer. It ran on the show against both Rutter and Jennings for three episodes in 2011.
While hosting the show, Trebek eventually became a popular culture icon and was awarded seven Emmys, six for Daytime and one for Lifetime Achievement in 2011. Earlier this year, he also received the Television Critics Association Lifetime Achievement Award, to which Trebek replied he was “humbled by it.”
Outside of his hosting duties, Trebek married his second wife Jean Currivan in 1990. The couple would go on to have two children alongside the daughter he adopted from his first wife. Trebek obtained citizenship in the United States in 1997.
He worked extensively as a philanthropist supporting the American Film Institute and the Royal Canadian Geographic Society among others. Trebek and his wife started the Trebek Family Foundation to donate to charities to keep up with requests.
When Trebek was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in March 2019, he made the decision to publicly announce it. He also mentioned that he planned to keep working. This resulted in people sending their love and support to Trebek to be strong and hopefully persevere. For a while, it appeared that Trebek’s outlook was improving and that he would survive the cancer.
Since the announcement, Trebek was able to fulfill his duties up until Oct. 29, 2020. Enough pre-recorded episodes were filmed with him hosting to last until Christmas day.
But “Jeopardy!” and television as a whole will no longer be the same without him in this world. His impactful career will rightfully be remembered for years to come.
David Myers is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email at email@example.com.