Alex Trebek, the famed Jeopardy! host, died on Sunday at 80 due to pancreatic cancer. His death comes one and a half years after his announcement that he was diagnosed with the Stage 4 variant of the disease. He is survived by his two children and his wife.
Trebek was perhaps most famed for his consistency, decorum, and dry humor. As the show’s only host, he helmed every episode of Jeopardy! for almost thirty years. His calm demeanor and steadiness made the show one of America’s most consistent (and beloved) T.V shows. Indeed, in its thirty-year history, the third edition of Jeopardy! was the second most popular game show in the U.S.
Trebek started his broadcasting career with The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Initially, he worked on radio shows, focusing on a wide range of sports and news. His hosting break came with the CBC’s Reach for the Top, a quiz show that featured students from all across Canada. Later, he had stints with various other game shows: The Wizard of Odds, Double Dare, and High Rollers.
Trebek was approached to host the 1984 reboot of the game show Jeopardy! and debuted in September of that year. In those early years, Jeopardy! was plagued with a number of issues: ratings were low, the budget was tight, and audiences felt that the show was too difficult to follow. But Trebek, at the time both host and producer, pushed on. Jeopardy! Has since become a mainstay on American television and has won 39 Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award. It has been parodied hundreds of times, and spin-off versions run in more than eight countries.
Beyond hosting, Trebek was a famed philanthropist. He made various trips to developing countries to help with food and water issues. In addition, he made over a dozen trips with the U.S Service Organization, working in places like Serbia to entertain U.S troops deployed there.
Trebek’s thirst for knowledge was unparalleled in American television. His motto in life was that “A good education and a kind heart will serve you well throughout your entire life.” He felt that knowledge enriched the person regardless of if they ever made use of it.
In the months leading up to his death, Trebek remained active. He continued hosting Jeopardy!, even though he was often beleaguered by pain. During the pandemic, he decided to write a memoir, something he had been avoiding for most of his career. Trebek ends his memoir with this passage:
“I’ll be perfectly content if that’s how my story ends: sitting on the swing with the woman I love, my soul mate, and our two wonderful children nearby. I’ll sit there for a while and then maybe the four of us will go for a walk, each day trying to walk a little farther than the last. We’ll take things one step at a time, one day at a time. In fact, I think I’ll go sit in the swing for a bit right now.
The weather is beautiful—the sun is shining into a mild, mild-looking sky, and there’s not a cloud in sight.”
What is to happen to Jeopardy! remains unknown, but he will always be remembered as an icon of American television, remembered by audiences across the globe.