Today marked the final new episode of Jeopardy! hosted by Alex Trebek. I’ve spent nearly four decades of time on this planet watching Jeopardy! five nights per week. Though I know the game predated Trebek’s involvement and I actually know a person who appeared on the show when it was hosted by Art Fleming, to me, Jeopardy! is synonymous with Alex Trebek. I watched the program nearly every night with my father growing up and continued to devour it as an adult.
Through all the ebbs and flows of life, Trebek was a constant presence. In a time where the truth is continuously questioned, he seemed to stand at the head of knowledge as a stoic arbiter. He was the face of a trivia show, but his projections that intelligence matters and learning is worthwhile were not trivial. When I think about human beings who inhabited Earth at the same time as I, whom I never met, but who had giant influences on my life, Alex Trebek definitely vies for a spot near the top.
We learned Trebek had pancreatic cancer nearly two years ago. The disease is extraordinarily hard to outlast. We knew the end was coming, but to someone who seemed everlasting, it was tough to fathom him being gone. He died on 8 November 2020. Trebek filmed episodes of Jeopardy! until he couldn’t anymore, the last being recorded just 10 days prior to his passing. Originally scheduled to air during the holiday season in 2020, his final five episodes graced screens this week, culminating in tonight’s finale. At the start of the week, Trebek orated a message about giving and thinking beyond just ourselves:
During December, the show featured reruns in which Trebek traveled the world. The website stated:
“Alex used to say that he had three favorite types of categories: ‘Movies, Geography, and Movies About Geography.’ But as the saying goes, jokes are usually just ‘truth wrapped in a smile.’
“Alex had a lifelong interest in the world’s people, cultures and languages, and he was the driving force in many of the categories we’re sharing in the next two weeks. “History is the past,” he once said. ‘Geography is the future.'”
Ah, a wonderful way to tie in a tribute to Alex to the focus of the newsletter! A few of the following locations are spots I wanted to feature at some point in the future, so perhaps Jeopardy! and Trebek have provided a wonderful theme week! Enjoy a few videos of Trebek’s visits to some amazing places.
Born in 1940 in Sudbury, Ontario, Trebek became a naturalized American citizen in 1998. In addition to Jeopardy!, he hosted The Wizard of Odds, Double Dare, High Rollers, Battlestars, Classic Concentration, and To Tell the Truth. He carried the Olympic Torch in 1996. He made memorable appearances in White Men Can’t Jump and The X-Files. He inspired the famous parodies on Saturday Night Live. Trebek was a noted philanthropist.
I began writing this article before Trebek’s final show aired, but I finish it after watching. I had to chuckle as one of the answers to a clue in a category about words that contain “BING” was “ebbing.” I had just included the cliched idiom “ebb and flow” in the opening section of the article. And I had wondered, since his death, what the final clue of Trebek’s life would be. Fittingly, it was “Women & Science,” which just happens to be one of the newsletter’s favorite topics. Dr. Margaret Todd now has a spot in trivia history! (Note: that’s not a true spoiler, in case you have yet to watch the episode; she’s in the clue, not the answer)
When Trebek died, the news almost did not seem real, partially because we still had a couple of months of his taped shows to watch. Now, with today’s program behind us, his death seems final. Never again will we see new content from Jeopardy!’s high scholar.
A Daily Double in the category of Goodbyes: Your reaction to the end of an era and the loss of a wonderful human. What is “I’m not crying, you’re crying?” That’s correct! Thanks for all the great years, Alex!