Last updateWed, 21 Apr 2021 3pm


Remembering a TV ICON: Who is Alex Trebek?

Alex TrebekOn Nov. 8, the TV industry and dedicated Jeopardy! fans incurred a serious loss with the death of Alex Trebek, the program’s omniscient and charming host. Trebek, who hosted the game show from 1984 until his death, succumbed to pancreatic cancer at 80 years old last Sunday.

I first read about Trebek’s passing about eight minutes after the Jeopardy! official Instagram page posted announcing it: “Jeopardy! is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends. Thank you, Alex.”

Reading that, I was incredulous; I just watched him on television two nights ago, but I and other fans weren’t not expecting the news at some point. The beloved host suffered from stage IV pancreatic cancer for almost two years, and the public knew of his illness nearly as long. He wasn’t shy or ashamed of his struggle, saying in the original Mar. 2019 video about his diagnosis, “I...wanted to prevent you from reading or hearing some overblown or inaccurate reports regarding my health. So, therefore, I wanted to be the one to pass along this information.”

“Now,” Trebek explained, “just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.”

So, after about 20 months, and after plenty of (always optimistic) regular health updates from Trebek and his family, the world received the news that he had, in fact, lost his battle.

Though his passing was inevitable, many like myself are left wondering what will become of Jeopardy! without Trebek. Like good art is a balance of different facets in just the right proportions, Jeopardy! gets so much of its wide-ranging and generation-spanning appeal from the charisma, wit, idiosyncrasy, and occasional cockiness of Alex Trebek; in so many ways, he is the very reason the show has been able to maintain such an avid viewer base for decades.

As of this article’s writing, no announcement has been made regarding a possible successor to Trebek, but the show must absolutely go on, and Alex himself made it clear that he supported the continuation of the program after he was no longer able to host for whatever reason, but told Good Morning America in July, “I have no say whatsoever in who will replace me when my days as the host of Jeopardy! end.”

But truly, who replaces Alex Trebek doesn’t concern me; I’m not worried that the program will come to an end after this tragedy. His days as the host of Jeopardy! did indeed end and his final episode was taped only two weeks before he died, quite literally working until the very end of his life—something he made abundantly clear he wanted to do. I think this is what he would prefer his fans to think of when they think of Jeopardy! and his legacy on the show; i.e., not to worry about what will become of it without him.

Like I wrote last issue, I think game shows are a pure form of entertainment: watching others play games is arguably the most wholesome way to be entertained. I’ve been watching Jeopardy! since before I could talk. My parents would pop my portable car seat onto the counter, with the TV overlooking me, and let me watch Alex Trebek while they ate dinner. Since then, he and the program have been a fixture in my life.

And I imagine it’s been that way for millions of people who have welcomed Trebek and his rotating triad of contestants over the past 37 seasons. Even though he can’t host Jeopardy! anymore, and even though we won’t be seeing him every weeknight any longer, there’s a permanent, Trebek-sized dent in American pop culture forever, and that impact can’t be overstated.


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