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I’ll Take ‘We Miss You Alex’ for 100: Remembering Alex Trebek on The Day of His Final Jeopardy! Episode

Photo Credit: CBS/Viacom

Editor’s Note: The original air date of Alex Trebek’s final episode of Jeopardy was scheduled for Christmas Day 2020, but it was changed to an early January date.

Ironically, Alex Trebek died on November 8th at the beginning of pancreatic cancer awareness month. We knew we were going to miss him, but Alex’s fighting spirit kept up hopeful that the 80-year-old would beat his diagnosis. He returned to work knowing the risks, so that we could have a little normalcy in a pandemic. 

In his memoir, Alex Trebek wrote, “I’m not afraid of dying. One thing they’re not going to say at my funeral as part of the eulogy is, ‘He was taken from us too soon.’… I’ve lived a good, full life.” Even in his last year, Alex continued to live life to the fullest and was concerned about his fans, going so far as to pre-record a Thanksgiving message. 

While it’s going to be hard watching Jeopardy! on that final day, we don’t want to dwell on Alex’s death. It’s always Alex. He’d probably gently scold us if we were formal. After all, the man hosted Jeopardy! for 37 years. During that time, he became a beloved member of our nightly routine. Alex is the rare person who engenders levels of goodwill on par with Betty White. 

You can’t deny that Alex and Jeopardy! are inextricably linked. Despite Art Fleming hosting the original, Alex made the game his own just like Gene Rayburn and Allen Ludden are practically synonymous with Match Game and Password, respectively. However, limiting Alex’s accomplishments to Jeopardy! Ignores the rest of his “good, full life”. 

Before Alex Trebek became a household name in the United States, he hosted the 1960s CBC program Music Hop, essentially becoming Canada’s answer to American Bandstand-era Dick Clark. 

His break into American television came with Wizard of Odds, a short-lived 1973 game show best remembered for who hosted it. He spent the rest of the 70s hosting a variety of short-lived shows. While the shows are largely forgettable, there are a few notable ones, such as High Rollers, Pitfall, and Double Dare. High Rollers was Alex’s longest lasting series until Jeopardy!. Pitfall infamously stiffed Alex, who decided to frame the bounced check for his entire salary. Double Dare, which should not be confused with the Nickelodeon show of the same name, only lasted 96 episodes and was a rather staid affair, yet is best remembered for Alex reading the following clues with a straight face on the last show. 

“The more horizontal this thing is kept while in action, the more you’ll get what you’re after.” “In the film Walkabout, the lead male straps one against his thigh with his loincloth.” “To use one properly, grip it firmly with three fingers at the curve near the tip.” The answer is a boomerang.

In 1984, Alex became Jeopardy!’s host, but didn’t let that stop him from hosting two more revivals, Classic Concentration and To Tell the Truth, at the beginning of the 1990s. 

Rewatching Alex’s game shows from the 1970s makes it hard to believe that the man with the afro and leisure suits would become America’s favorite quizmaster. Conversely, it’s also hard to believe that Alex didn’t always have the genial college professor vibe he projects on Jeopardy! We got to know him best on Jeopardy!, but loved Alex because, like Bill Cullen, he was a genuinely good guy who could host any game show. 

You can support pancreatic cancer research and those affected with a donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

The Final Episode of Alex Trebek on Jeopardy! Will Air Friday Night January 8 at 7 p.m. on ABC.

Allison Lips
Allison Lips
Anglophile, Rockabilly, Pompadour lover, TV and Music Critic


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