This week the final episodes of Jeopardy! are being run ending Friday. These final five shows were taped on October 29th. New episodes were to begin taping right after the holidays. As a tribute to this very special gentleman and as a huge fan of the show since day one, I am re-running this feature, but only the Alex Trebeck segment as my tribute to this special gentleman, so I hope you will indulge me.
With his passing we lost an icon in the TV game show world, and in life. Alex Trebeck had been battling pancreatic cancer for almost two years and fought a gallant fight. He never once gave up his hosting duties on “Jeopardy!” even though there were times he went through the show in pain, but the audience or contestants never knew it. He vowed to keep up the fight and beat this cancer. At the time of his death the shows being aired had been done about a month earlier, finishing on October 29. In these current episodes he looked very good, sounded good and one would never know what he was going through or the painful surgery he had just endured 11 days earlier. Mr. Trebeck became a role model for those suffering with pancreatic cancer as well as other forms of cancer. He never realized, he said, how much of an effect his presence on the show had on people. Not once did he ever use his “celebrity status” to elicit sympathy, but instead received an outpouring of love and comfort from millions of dedicated viewers of “Jeopardy!” worldwide. He said it was that showing of care and love from the e-mails, texts, cards, letters and well wishes he received from fans that got him through each day. Despite his “celebrity status” he was a very humble and family oriented man who lived his life to the fullest.
As for his career, his resume reads like a who’s who of game shows. He was doing a variety of shows for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), including a French language American Bandstand type show back in the day. He had become a fairly well known name but it was a fellow Canadian who would bring a change to Alex Trebeck’s career and life. It all began when actor/writer/singer Alan Thicke was producing a new game show called the “Wizard of Odds”, and wanted Trebeck to come to the states to do the show. That was in 1973 and although the show only aired for a year Alex Trebeck with his boyish looks, the moustache and personality had made an impression on the networks and game show producers.
From that time until the reboot of Jeopardy!” in 1984, Trebeck was the emcee of game shows like High Rollers, The $128,000 Question, Pitfall, Battlestars, Classic Concentration, To Tell the Truth and more. He even did a little acting for fun on shows like Cheers, Golden Girls, Baywatch and others. But it was in 1984 when game show creator, singer Merv Griffin decided to reboot his show “Jeopardy!”,which had had a previous hit run on NBC from 1964 -1975 with Art Fleming as the host. Griffin wanted to do the new version in syndication which was a new form of television income. That was when everything would change. Griffin brought on Mr. Trebeck along with announcer Johnny Gilbert to host the show in syndication and the rest, as they say, is television history 37 years later as the longest running game show in TV history. Alex Trebeck was, is and will always be, one of a kind who gave all of us so very much in our lives in so many ways and on so many levels. He will be forever missed by us all.
Next week the new era of Jeopardy! will continue. Trusted long time announcer and friend Johnny Gilbert, who is now 96, will still do the show openings. Ken Jennings will be the first in a series of guest hosts, before the show settles on a permanent host. It will be tough for fans of the show to watch it without Alex, but I hope they will, as will I, give Jennings and the hosts who follow, their support just as Mr. Trebeck would want and keep watching the show that has become a fixture in so many lives. In this troubled world we live in today, those thirty minutes every night are a very welcome respite that we all need.
R.I.P. Alex Trebeck and thank you for all you gave us those many years. We were honored and humbled to have you in our presence..
Art Koch, National Features & DVD Editor, NightMoves Magazine and AAN