Monday, November 9, 2020

The Late Great Alex Trebek

Alex Trebek, the long-time host of the game show Jeopardy, died yesterday, November 8 2020, after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old. In addition to hosting Jeopardy, he also worked a good deal with Turner Classic Movies and was active with multiple charities.

Alex Trebek was born George Alexander Trebek in Sudbury, Ontario on July 22 1940. He was named after his father, George Edward Trebek, a chef who had emigrated from Ukraine to Canada. He received his first job when he was 13, working as a bellhop at the hotel at which his father was a chef. He attended Sudbury High School before enrolling at the University of Ontario. He graduated from the university in 1961 with a degree in philosophy.

It was in 1961, before he had even graduated, that Mr. Trebek began working at the Canadian Broadcasting Company. There he would eventually read the national news and he would cover a wide array of special events and sports for both radio and television. In 1963 he hosted his first television show, the CBC music program Music Hop. Afterwards he hosted the shows Vacation Time, Reach for the Top, and Strategy.

From 1971 to 1972 Alex Trebek hosted I'm Here Til 9, CBC Toronto's morning drive radio show. He hosted the CBC game shows Pick and Choose and Outside Inside. It was in 1973 that Alex Trebek moved to the United States. In the Seventies he hosted the  game shows The Wizard of Odds, Double Dare, High Rollers, and Card Sharks.

From 1981 to 1983 he hosted Battlestars. It was in 1984 that Alex Trebek began his long run as the host of Jeopardy. His final taping on the show was October 29 2002. It was on June 13 2014 that Guinness World Records named Mr. Trebek as the game show host with the world record of the most game show episodes hosted. He continued to host other shows, including Lou Rawls Parade of the Stars, Super Jeopardy!, and Classic Concentration. He contineud to host Jeopardy in the Nineties.

In the Naughts he continued hosting Jeopardy and he was a TCM Guest programmer in 2008. In the Teens he continued his long run on Jeopardy. On TCM he was the host of Robert Osborne's 20th Anniversary Tribute.

Of course, Alex Trebek also appeared in many TV shows and movies, usually as himself. Among those shows were Vega$, Cheers, Pacific Station, The Golden Girls, Rugrats, The Larry Sanders Show, Beverly Hills 90120, The Nanny, The X-Files, The Magic School Bus, Seinfeld, The Weird Al Show, The Simpsons, Ned and Stacey, Baywatch, Mad About You, Pepper Ann, Ladies Man, Arthur, Saturday Night Live, Married to the Kellys, Family Guy, How I Met Your Mother, and Jack Ryan. He appeared in the movies Dying Young (1991), White Men Can't Jump (1992), Short Cuts (1993), Jane Austen's Mafia! (1998), Random Hearts (1999), The Male Swagger (1999), Charlie's Angels (2000), Finding Forrester (2000), Little Manhattan (2005), and Phil (2019).

Alex Trebek had close ties to Turner Classic Movies. As mentioned above, he was a guest programmer in 2008 and hosted Robert Osborne's 20th Anniversary Tribute. He attended the TCM Classic Film Festival and was a guest on the TCM Classic Cruise. At both he conducted trivia contests. At the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival he introduced Wuthering Heights (1939), his wife's favourite movie of all time.

A very good argument can be made that Alex Trebek is the greatest game show host of all time. He was congenial, friendly, and warm. Not only did he clearly enjoy the game, but he was also clearly a man of considerable knowledge himself. Alex Trebek always encouraged learning and the acquisition of knowledge. He instilled a love for trivia in multiple generations.

As Alex Trebek attended both the TCM Classic Film Festival and TCM Classic Cruise, I know people who have actually met Mr. Trebek in person. He was exactly what one would expect from seeing him on Jeopardy. Mr. Trebek was warm, friendly, witty, and erudite. As far as TCM personalities go, he was among the best loved. The many tributes from former Jeopardy contestants confirm that Mr. Trebek was truly a good man. They weren't simply grateful to have been on Jeopardy, but to have gotten to spend time with a truly decent person. Alex Trebek was no mere game show host. He was a scholar and a gentleman in the truest sense.

1 comment:

Dennis Bedard said...

A class act. The secret to his appeal was his very unpolitical nature. i don't know what his politics were and that is a good thing. Unusual for a celebrity in this day and age. Since Jeopardy specialized in esoteria, I have yet to read a Trebek obituary that mentions his predecessor, Art Fleming and the announcer, Don Pardot. Both did a good job running the original Jeopardy way back in the early '70's. RIP.