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Alex Trebek, the long-running host of Jeopardy!, has passed away at the age of 80. The news was confirmed by the trivia game show's official Twitter account, which wrote: "Jeopardy! is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends. Thank you, Alex."
Trebek, whose career in media dated back to the early 1960s, had been suffering from Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer since early 2019. Despite the rather negative prognosis, the beloved television personality had hoped to beat the virulent disease that also killed other notable entertainment/pop culture figures like Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze, and Alan Rickman. Nevertheless, Trebek wasn't phased by the low-survival rate.
"I plan to beat the low survival-rate statistics for this disease," he told USA Today. "Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years!" he went on to joke. "So help me. Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done."
He completed his chemotherapy treatment last summer and returned to work for the 37th season of Jeopardy! “It’s something that I can’t explain intellectually. At a gut level, without even thinking about it, it just happens. I suddenly wake up and I’m able to perform and handle the show because I like it. It's a good job,” he said during an interview with Good Morning America this past July.
By the time of his passing, Trebek had hosted over 8,0000 Jeopardy!. He set the world record for most game show episodes hosted in the summer of 2014. “It’s an honor to hold the Guinness World Record for hosting Jeopardy!, which I’ve often said is the best of reality T.V.,” he remarked at the time. “We have had incredible support from our viewers for the past 30 years, and without them, I wouldn’t have set this record.”
Created by Merv Griffin in the early 60s, Jeopardy! is a trivia-based competition series in which players must give their answers in the form of a question after being presented with the answer. The trivia is broken up into different categories, many of which are reflections of the pop culture zeitgeist. In one episode, for instance, the "Classic Movies & TV" category was full of video clues based on famous movie props (Luke Skywalker's lightsaber, the Ark of the Covenant) providedby Profiles in History. In yet another episode, there was a category exclusively devoted to Pokémon trivia.
Art Fleming was the original host before Trebek took over the role in 1984. Over the years, he became an iconic household name (whether he was rocking a mustache or not), eventually transcending the confines his own show to make small appearances on The X-Files, The Magic School Bus, Rugrats, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Saturday Night Live (where he was played by a beleaguered Will Ferrell).
Like Regis Philbin, who passed away over the summer, Trebek would often appear as himself. His final cameo will be in Shawn Levy's Free Guy, which is currently without a release date. "Alex Trebek was kind enough to film a cameo for our film Free Guy last year, despite his battle," the film's star, Ryan Reynolds, wrote on Twitter. "He was gracious and funny. In addition to being curious, stalwart, generous, reassuring and of course, Canadian. We love you, Alex. And always will."
Check out some of Mr. Trebek's most memorable genre appearances below:
Born in Ontario, Canada in July of 1940, Trebek began his media career with the Canadian Broadcasting Company in 1961. He worked in broadcast journalism before dipping his toes in the world of game shows with Canada's Reach for the Top, which he hosted for seven years. He then moved to the U.S., where he hosted several other programs like The Wizard of Odds, Classic Concentration, Double Dare, and High Rollers. Even after he boarded Jeopardy! (it originated on NBC, but is now a CBS property) in 1984, Trebek hosted 11 episodes of To Tell the Truth in 1991. In 2018, he executive produced Game Changers, a documentary features about the enduring popularity of game shows.
"I seem to be, you know, your uncle, your friendly neighbor, and people react to that in a positive way," Trebek told NPR over the summer, discussing his universal appeal. "They feel comfortable with me. And so when you combine all of those things, it makes for a pretty pleasant experience for the television viewer. They don't feel, oh, gosh, you know, this is a good game, but that host, he's really obnoxious."
Per Variety, Trebek is survived by his second wife, Jean, and their two adult children, Emily and Matthew. The seasoned host was mourned on social media by actors, dignitaries, business moguls, and, most importantly, former Jeopardy! champions.
(certain biographical info via IMDB)