Alex Trebek, Host of ‘Jeopardy!,’ Dies at 80

Alex Trebek, who hosted “Jeopardy!” for a record-setting 36 years and introduced an authoritative and unflappable persona to the quiz present’s peculiar conceit, wherein questions are delivered as solutions, died on Sunday. He was 80. The loss of life was confirmed by the present’s producers. They stated that episodes of the present hosted by Mr. Trebek would air via Dec. 25 and that that they had not made plans for a alternative.

Mr. Trebek had introduced in a video on March 6, 2019, that he had obtained a prognosis of Stage four pancreatic most cancers that week. He stated that like many others with the illness, he had no signs till it had unfold all through his physique. He delivered the information from the present’s set, carrying, as common, a bandbox-fresh swimsuit and tie as he spoke straight to the digicam with out sentiment or histrionics.

As a bunch, Mr. Trebek was the essence of sturdiness. In the many years that he had captained “Jeopardy!” greater than 400 different recreation exhibits got here and went. Millions of Americans organized their weeknights across the program, shouting out the inquiries to their televisions as Mr. Trebek learn the solutions along with his impeccable diction.

One attraction of the present, aside from its mental problem, was its consistency. Over the years its format stayed reliably acquainted, as did Mr. Trebek, although he trimmed again his bushy head of hair, grew grayer and infrequently sported a mustache, beard or goatee.

Otherwise he was a gentle and predictable host — a no-nonsense presence, environment friendly in his function and comforting in his orderliness.

During the sport, he may sometimes elevate an eyebrow and say “Oooh, noooo, sorry” or repeat a clue with a whiff of condescension; he informed New York journal that when contestants missed apparent solutions, he deliberately struck a tone that was meant to convey: “How can you not get this? This is not rocket science.”

Through it all, he kept the game running on its strict timetable.

He started hosting in 1984, when the show returned to the airwaves after a hiatus. Since then he has been the only host, helming every episode except one, on April Fools’ Day in 1997, when he swapped places with Pat Sajak, the host of “Wheel of Fortune.”

Mr. Trebek and Mr. Sajak had a friendly rivalry over the years as they led two of the longest-running game shows in television history. For years, “Jeopardy!” was the top-rated quiz show in America and usually the No. 2 game show, behind “Wheel of Fortune.”

“I taped the show, and then I made it to the dressing room on one occasion, just barely, before I writhed in pain and cried in pain,” he said.

Some viewers were drawn to the sense of absolute certitude that Mr. Trebek projected.

“As we get further into the 21st century, and we become more aware of the relativism of truth, there is something satisfying about Alex telling you it’s right or wrong,” Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, said in a tphone interview.

“I love that there is no discussion, no panel of experts,” he said. “Just Alex with his cards.”

Mr. Trebek spurned being called the star of “Jeopardy!” He wanted viewers to focus on the material. The show derived its drama not from any antics of his, but from the contestants and the possibility that at any moment fortunes could shift, with an apparent loser becoming an instant winner, and vice versa.

“You have to set your ego aside,” Mr. Trebek said of his role. “If you want to be a good host, you have to figure out a way to get the contestants to — as in the old television commercial about the military — ‘be all you can be.’ Because if they do well, the show does well. And if the show does well, by association, I do well.”

The show did well. “Jeopardy!” has won more Emmy Awards — 35 — than any other game show. They included the 2017 Daytime Emmy for outstanding game show — remarkable for a program on the air for more than three decades. Mr. Trebek himself won six Emmys for outstanding game show host and an additional lifetime achievement award.

“Jeopardy!” won a 2011 Peabody Award, the first time in more than 50 years that a television quiz show had been so recognized. The citation said the award, given in 2012, was “for decades of consistently encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge.” It said that “Jeopardy!” was “a model of integrity and decorum.”

The nod to integrity was significant. Quiz shows had fallen into disrepute after cheating scandals in the 1950s; the 1994 film “Quiz Show” dramatized the deceit.

In reaction to those scandals, the idea for “Jeopardy!” was born.

Merv Griffin, the talk show host and media mogul who created the show, recounted in “The ‘Jeopardy!’ Book” (1990) that he had been talking to his wife in 1963 about how much he missed the old quiz shows. But, he said, he recognized that the format had lost all credibility after revelations that contestants on some programs had been secretly fed the answers.

Well, then, his wife, Julann, had said, Why not give contestants the answers to start with and make them come up with the questions?

It was a light bulb moment. Ms. Griffin said, “79 Wistful Vista.” And Mr. Griffin replied, “What is Fibber McGee and Molly’s address?” — a reference to characters on a long-running radio comedy.

The mechanics of the game, initially called “What’s the Question?” went through a few iterations before “Jeopardy!” made its debut on NBC on March 30, 1964, with Art Fleming as the host.

Initially a hit, the show was canceled in 1975 as NBC sought to reach a younger demographic. “Jeopardy!” returned in 1978, disappeared again, then underwent a high-tech face lift. The low-tech game board was replaced with a bank of video monitors. The theme music, composed by Mr. Griffin, was updated using electronic synthesizers. And in 1984, the show came back for good.

Mr. Trebek has said that he was chosen as host because he had made a good impression when he filled in on “Wheel of Fortune” in an emergency when the original host, Chuck Woolery, was hospitalized. Merv Griffin Enterprises, which created both shows, appreciated Mr. Trebek’s seamless performance on “Wheel” and offered him “Jeopardy!”

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