Alex Trebek, Longtime Host of ‘Jeopardy!,’ Dies at 80

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Alex Trebek, Longtime Host of ‘Jeopardy!,’ Dies at 80

At a restaurant a number of years in the past, a stranger went as much as Alex Trebek, the longtime host of “Jeopardy!” and as strangers usually did, tried to stump him.

“The American flag flies here 24 hour a day, every day of the year,” the stranger stated, utilizing the quiz present host’s specific locution, through which questions are delivered as solutions.

Mr. Trebek sensed that the stranger was in search of one thing extra intelligent than an inventory of which buildings, just like the White Home, had been approved to fly the flag by the night time. And with out lacking a beat he answered within the type of a query: “What is the moon?”

The short-witted Mr. Trebek, who died on Sunday at age 80 after a battle with most cancers that drew legions of followers to rally round him, hosted “Jeopardy!” for a record-setting 37 years. He was an authoritative and unflappable fixture for thousands and thousands of Individuals who organized their weeknights across the program, shouting out the questions as Mr. Trebek learn the solutions together with his impeccable diction.

One main enchantment of the present, other than its mental problem, was its consistency. Through the years its format stayed reliably acquainted, as did Mr. Trebek, although he trimmed again his bushy head of hair, grew grayer and sometimes sported a mustache, beard or goatee. In any other case he was the mannequin of a gradual and predictable host — a no-nonsense presence, environment friendly in his function and comforting in his orderliness.

Mr. Trebek’s loss of life was confirmed by the present’s producers. They stated that episodes of the present he hosted would air by Dec. 25 and that they’d not made plans for a alternative.

Mr. Trebek had introduced in a video on March 6, 2019, that he had obtained a prognosis of Stage Four pancreatic most cancers that week. He stated that like many others with the illness, he had no signs till it had unfold all through his physique. He delivered the information from the present’s set, sporting, as regular, a bandbox-fresh swimsuit and tie as he spoke straight to the digital camera with out sentiment or histrionics.

When he commanded a recreation, he would possibly sometimes increase an eyebrow and say “Oooh, noooo, sorry” or repeat a clue with a whiff of condescension; he instructed New York journal that when contestants missed apparent solutions, he intentionally struck a tone that was meant to convey: “How can you not get this? This is not rocket science.”

Via all of it, he stored the sport operating on its strict timetable.

He began internet hosting in 1984, when the present returned to the airwaves after a hiatus. Since then he has been the one host, helming each episode besides one, on April Fools’ Day in 1997, when he swapped locations with Pat Sajak, the host of “Wheel of Fortune.”

Mr. Trebek and Mr. Sajak had a pleasant rivalry over time as they led two of the longest-running recreation exhibits in tv historical past. For years, “Jeopardy!” was the top-rated quiz present in America and normally the No. 2 recreation present, behind “Wheel of Fortune.”

A number of weeks after Mr. Trebek introduced that he had most cancers, the scores for “Jeopardy!” coincidentally started to soar when a contestant, James Holzhauer, a sports activities gambler from Las Vegas, roared by the sport on a profitable streak that captivated the nation.

Every night time, an increasing number of viewers tuned in to see whether or not Mr. Holzhauer might beat the document set by Ken Jennings, a pc programmer, who scored 74 straight victories in 2004. With Mr. Holzhauer on the buzzer, “Jeopardy!” even blew previous “Judge Judy,” lengthy the top-rated present in syndication.

In the long run, Mr. Holzhauer fell simply $58,000 shy (over 32 video games) of breaking Mr. Jennings’s document win of $2.5 million. However he boosted the present’s scores to a 14-year excessive, drawing 13.three million day by day viewers. He later donated a few of his winnings to charitable causes, together with analysis into pancreatic most cancers in Mr. Trebek’s title.

Mr. Trebek stated later that whereas he was taping a few of the exhibits with Mr. Holzhauer, he had been in excruciating ache.

In contrast to many celebrities who conceal sickness, Mr. Trebek was clear about what he was going by. Typically his ache would shoot “from a three to an 11” throughout tapings, he instructed CBS’s “Sunday Morning” in Might 2019.

“I taped the show, and then I made it to the dressing room on one occasion, just barely, before I writhed in pain and cried in pain,” he stated.

In March 2020, he gave a one-year video replace on his standing, noting that simply 18 % of individuals with pancreatic most cancers stay that lengthy.

The chemo remedies had been virtually an excessive amount of, he stated.

“There were moments of great pain,” he stated, “days when certain bodily functions no longer functioned and sudden, massive attacks of great depression that made me wonder if it really was worth fighting on.”

However to surrender, he stated, would have been to betray family members who had been serving to him survive.

Mr. Trebek hosted greater than 8,000 episodes of “Jeopardy!” In 2014, he claimed the document for internet hosting probably the most episodes of a single recreation present, surpassing the document set by Bob Barker, who had led “The Price is Right” for six,828 episodes between 1972 and 2007.

Mr. Trebek as soon as stated he thought recreation exhibits did effectively as a result of they prevented battle.

“In this day and age, when there is so much societal tension, game shows are valuable because they’re pleasant,” he instructed New York journal in 2018.

Some viewers had been drawn to the sense of absolute certitude that Mr. Trebek projected.

“As we get further into the 21st century, and we become more aware of the relativism of truth, there is something satisfying about Alex telling you it’s right or wrong,” Robert Thompson, a professor of tv and in style tradition at Syracuse College, stated in a cellphone interview.

“I love that there is no discussion, no panel of experts,” he stated. “Just Alex with his cards.”

Mr. Trebek spurned being known as the star of “Jeopardy!” He needed viewers to give attention to the fabric. The present derived its drama not from any antics of his, however from the contestants and the chance that at any second fortunes might shift, with an obvious loser turning into an immediate winner, and vice versa.

“You have to set your ego aside,” Mr. Trebek stated of his function. “If you want to be a good host, you have to figure out a way to get the contestants to — as in the old television commercial about the military — ‘be all you can be.’ Because if they do well, the show does well. And if the show does well, by association, I do well.”

The present did effectively. “Jeopardy!” has received extra Emmy Awards — 35 — than another recreation present. They included the 2017 Daytime Emmy for excellent recreation present — outstanding for a program on the air for greater than three many years. Mr. Trebek himself received six Emmys for excellent recreation present host and a further lifetime achievement award.

“Jeopardy!” received a 2011 Peabody Award, the primary time in additional than 50 years {that a} tv quiz present had been so acknowledged. The quotation stated the award, given in 2012, was “for decades of consistently encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge.” It stated that “Jeopardy!” was “a model of integrity and decorum.”

The nod to integrity was important. Quiz exhibits had fallen into disrepute after dishonest scandals within the 1950s; the 1994 movie “Quiz Show” dramatized the deceit.

In response to these scandals, the thought for “Jeopardy!” was born.

Merv Griffin, the speak present host and media mogul who created the present, recounted in “The ‘Jeopardy!’ Book” (1990) that he had been speaking to his spouse in 1963 about how a lot he missed the outdated quiz exhibits. However, he stated, he acknowledged that the format had misplaced all credibility after revelations that contestants on some packages had been secretly fed the solutions.

Properly, then, his spouse, Julann, had stated, Why not give contestants the solutions to begin with and make them provide you with the questions?

It was a light-weight bulb second. Ms. Griffin stated, “79 Wistful Vista.” And Mr. Griffin replied, “What is Fibber McGee and Molly’s address?” — a reference to characters on a long-running radio comedy.

The mechanics of the sport, initially known as “What’s the Question?” went by a couple of iterations earlier than “Jeopardy!” made its debut on NBC on March 30, 1964, with Artwork Fleming because the host.

Initially a success, the present was canceled in 1975 as NBC sought to succeed in a youthful demographic. “Jeopardy!” returned in 1978, disappeared once more, then underwent a high-tech face carry. The low-tech recreation board was changed with a financial institution of video displays. The theme music, composed by Mr. Griffin, was up to date utilizing digital synthesizers. And in 1984, the present got here again for good.

Mr. Trebek has stated that he was chosen as host as a result of he had made a great impression when he crammed in on “Wheel of Fortune” in an emergency when the unique host, Chuck Woolery, was hospitalized. Merv Griffin Enterprises, which created each exhibits, appreciated Mr. Trebek’s seamless efficiency on “Wheel” and supplied him “Jeopardy!”

Mr. Griffin additionally wrote the present’s extremely distinctive “Think” theme, which is performed throughout “Final Jeopardy!” as contestants write down questions that normally make or break them. Its 30-second countdown has grow to be synonymous with any deadline strain, with a wooden block timekeeper and a harp glissando end in addition to pizzicato strings on the very finish.

Mr. Trebek loved listening to the theme music performed at ballparks and soccer video games when managers huddled or time was in any other case stopped. That meant that the music was immediately recognizable, that “Jeopardy!” had arrived, he stated — that it had grow to be “part of Americana.”

George Alexander Trebek was born on July 22, 1940, in Better Sudbury, Ontario, north of Toronto. His father, George Edward Trebek, was a chef who had emigrated from Ukraine as a toddler, and his mom, Lucille (Lagacé) was French Canadian. Alex grew up in a bilingual French-English family.

He attended Jesuit faculties till the age of 12, when his dad and mom divorced; he then left Sudbury to attend boarding faculty on the College of Ottawa Excessive Faculty in Ottawa, graduating in 1957. Afterward he enrolled on the College of Ottawa.

By his junior 12 months he wanted cash to pay for faculty and located a job on the Canadian Broadcasting Company as a summer season reduction announcer. He took on different saying gigs. After graduating in 1961 with a serious in philosophy, Mr. Trebek stayed on the CBC, the place his pursuits turned to internet hosting.

His first such job was for a Canadian music program known as “Music Hop” in 1963. He then hosted a highschool quiz present known as “Reach for the Top” and different miscellaneous packages till 1973, when he moved to america. There he began out on a short-lived recreation present known as “The Wizard of Odds.” A dizzying collection of different exhibits adopted, together with “High Rollers,” “Double Dare” and “The $128,000 Question.”

In 1974 he married Elaine Callei, a businesswoman and former Playboy bunny. That they had no kids and divorced in 1981. In 1990, he married Jean Currivan, an actual property undertaking supervisor from New York.

Survivors embrace his spouse and his kids, Matthew, Emily and Nicky.

In 2016, Forbes estimated Mr. Trebek’s wage at $16.5 million and ranked him because the 11th highest paid tv host on this planet. Nonetheless, Mr. Trebek eschewed the Hollywood excessive life. He reveled in being a homebody, drove a pickup truck and spent his leisure time on do-it-yourself dwelling repairs. For a time, he owned a 700-acre ranch close to Paso Robles in California, the place he bred and educated thoroughbred racehorses, however he bought it in 2005.

His job helming “Jeopardy!” didn’t forestall him from periodically internet hosting different recreation exhibits, including to his recognition. He hosted “Jeopardy!” and “Classic Concentration” concurrently and on Feb. 4, 1991, made broadcast historical past when he additionally appeared on “To Tell the Truth,” turning into the primary particular person to host three American recreation exhibits without delay.

Someplace alongside the way in which he grew to become a cultural icon.

Mr. Trebek appeared steadily as himself in films, together with in “Charlie’s Angels” (2000), and on tv packages, together with “The Simpsons” and “The Colbert Report.” He ran a leg with the Olympic torch prematurely of the 1996 Video games in Atlanta.

He even hosted a debate for the governor’s race in Pennsylvania in 2018, however the consequence was disastrous. He had stated that he needed the format to be conversational, however nobody had anticipated how a lot he needed to be a part of the dialog. He talked for greater than 40 % of the time, together with providing random feedback on the clergy abuse scandals within the Catholic Church. He later apologized, saying he had misunderstood the function of moderator.

Nonetheless, in an unscientific ballot in Reader’s Digest in 2013, he got here in eighth on the checklist of 100 most trusted Individuals (he grew to become a naturalized United States citizen in 1998).

Since Mr. Trebek introduced his prognosis, his admirers have flooded the web and elsewhere with encomiums.

“Despite the diagnosis, Trebek continued to work, to put on his suits and read his clues,” wrote one, Sam Anderson, in 2019 in The New York Instances Journal.

“It was a dignified refusal to surrender to doom,” he added. “He was the squarest possible existentialist hero: a man who holds the answer to every single trivia question, but not to the great final question of death — and yet he keeps showing up anyway, reading his clues, giving us every last answer he can.”

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