A tribute to Alex Trebek


Ian Allen

Legendary media host Alex Trebek.

For as long as I can remember, we always used to have the TV on in our kitchen during dinner. When it was 7:00, we would all turn our heads to the TV when the Jeopardy theme song came on. Alex Trebek appeared and we would all turn our chairs to watch our favorite game show.
On Nov. 8, Trebek died in his home after a long battle with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He was the longtime host of Jeopardy since 1984 spanning 37 seasons and his final taped episodes will be released this month. His battle with cancer lasted 18 months; he worked through chemotherapy to continue his hosting abilities.
My mother is a huge fan of Jeopardy. This is one show we consistently watch as a family and we always have a blast. My mother is very intelligent and has a wide range of knowledge about different books, countries, Shakespeare, you name it. She will not take the Jeopardy test to compete on the show, so her favorite thing to do is compete with the contestants while watching. Whenever it is time for Final Jeopardy, she reads the question and almost gets the correct answer each time.
One thing that my mother pointed out to me was that Alex Trebek would always get to know each contestant. In each episode, the contestants get the chance to say something interesting about themselves to Alex and the audience. Sometimes the stories are super interesting and about trips people have taken or their profession. If a contestant’s story is not interesting to Alex, he would usually respond with a laugh and accept whatever their story was about.
Something that was fascinating about Alex was that he was an aficionado. An aficionado is a person who is especially knowledgeable and passionate about certain subjects, activities, or past events. He would have the answer cards in front of him during each match for the different categories. If a contestant answered a question with a phrase that was similar to the actual answer, Alex would correct them and state where he thought they got that answer from.
Alex did not choose which categories would be used in a given episode. Some of his favorite categories were movies, geography, movies about geography and ad-libs. He had been vocal in interviews saying that he did not like when contestants would jump from category to category. He liked when one contestant could solve the answers for one category in a row and would applaud them for doing so.
He had fun with the contestants and this showed that he truly enjoyed his job. During one of the college student tournaments, one of the categories was about famous rappers. Each question gave the lyrics to a certain rapper’s song. It was fun to watch Alex have fun rapping the lyrics and the contestants had fun answering these questions.
The recurring categories that the show would use were “Before and After,” “Literature,” “Science,” “Potpourri,” and “American History.” The clues in these categories were never the same, and Alex would sometimes make a comment on how he never got tired of using them.
Jeopardy is ranked third for most-watched game shows in America. It is behind Wheel of Fortune and The Price is Right. The show has over 37 million viewers a week. There have been a number of tournaments added to the show with celebrities, a teachers’ competition, kids, college students and most recently, the greatest of the all-time tournament. Alex never had any favorite contestants, but he did have three outstanding players that made his career so enjoyable.
The Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time tournament was aired in January of this year. The four-part tournament featured Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. The tournament was created to find out who was the greatest contestant of the show and each of the three contestants had earned the most winnings during their original episodes. Jennings won the tournament.
The impact that Jeopardy and Alex have had on those who watch the show are significant. Alex worked hard to talk about his battle with pancreatic cancer and was open and honest about how his treatments were going. He was giving hope to others who have heard his story or read his memoir that may also fight the same battle. Alex enjoyed the kids, teens and college edition tournaments. He stated during these programs that he hoped he was inspiring more young people to study hard and hopefully be on the program in the future.
Alex won seven Outstanding Game Show Host Emmy Awards, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s gold medal award, the Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award, and he holds the Guinness World Record for the most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter for the same program since 2014.
A memorable moment of the show was in an episode last year. One of the contestants wrote, “What is, We [heart] you, Alex!” instead of an answer. Immediately, Alex got emotional and thanked the contestant for his kind message. The next day, #WeLoveAlexTrebek was trending on social media.
Before his passing, Alex had filmed 35 episodes for the current season. One of his final wishes was that the producers of the show continue to air his last episodes. Alex’s last episode would air before Christmas. The show has stated that they are not looking to fill Alex’s host role until next year. This means that whoever replaces Alex needs to have a love and passion for hosting the iconic game. Ken Jennings is the hopeful future host. Nightly television or Jeopardy will not be the same once Alex’s last episode airs.