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Alex Trebek – A ‘Jeopardy!’ Icon

Alex Trebek –  A ‘Jeopardy!’ Icon

Alex Trebek died Sunday, 11/8/20

Alex Trebek began hosting “Jeopardy!” in 1984, sporting a thick mustache and a pale pink pocket square on his first episode. He got the job partly because Lucille Ball, of “I Love Lucy” fame, had encouraged the show’s producer to hire him. He went on to host more than 8,000 episodes, breaking a record set by Bob Barker of “The Price is Right” for hosting the most episodes of a single game show.

On Sunday, Trebek died at 80, more than a year after announcing he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. His death led to an outpouring of tributes from fans who saw him as a steady — and witty — presence in their homes.

In living rooms across the country, five nights a week, viewers could count on “an honest, no-frills test of knowledge” guided by Trebek, as a 2002 Times article put it. “We’re comfortable, like an old pair of shoes,” Trebek said. “We don’t come on with a splash.” Pre-pandemic, Trebek would host five episodes a day, two days a week, from July to April. He would go over the 305 clues for that day’s shows at 7:30 a.m., making notes. If a clue seemed too difficult, he would tell the writers to remove it.

Part of his appeal was his honesty, which extended to his fight with cancer. He spoke about it publicly, saying his pain would sometimes shoot “from a three to an 11” during tapings.

“With his cerebral bearing and aura of quiet, impartial authority, he embodies ideals that feel endangered: the pursuit of knowledge, and the inherent value of facts,” Alexandra Alter wrote in a profile this year. And his honesty included flashes of restrained disappointment when contestants missed an easy question. His tone, he once told New York magazine, tried to convey: “How can you not get this? This is not rocket science.”

Still, many contestants adored him. Some were moved to tears upon meeting him. In one episode that aired last week, a contestant — an Indian immigrant named Burt Thakur — said that he had learned to speak English by watching Trebek as a child, sitting on his grandfather’s lap.
Episodes of the show hosted by Trebek will air through Dec. 25.

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