R.I.P. Alex Trebek, the beloved longtime host of Jeopardy!
A challenging trivia question is to ask: Who was the first host of Jeopardy!? Most people would likely answer Alex Trebek. The Canadian television personality began hosting the syndicated daytime edition of the game show in 1984. Trebek has become the face of the Jeopardy! franchise over the last 36 years. Quite simply, Alex Trebek is Jeopardy! and vice versa. To the point that it's easy to forget the game show existed in the Sixties and Seventies with its original host, Art Fleming.
Ontario native Trebek got his start in his homeland in the Sixties. He hosted a quiz show called Reach for the Top that showcased high school students in 1966. A few years later, he emceed a program called Strategy for the CBC.
In the early 1970s, Trebek moved to the United States, landing a gig hosting an NBC game show called The Wizard of Odds.
As the game show format roared back into popularity in the Seventies, following its brief demise following the quiz show scandals of the Fifties, Trebek found work on a variety of titles, including High Rollers and Double Dare (no, not the Nickelodeon one with the slime).
Trebek proved himself to be a trivia ace himself and no mere microphone holder. The show Card Sharks put on a special celebrity event with hosts as contestants in 1980. Trebek won the tournament, beating the likes of Bill Cullen, Allen Ludden and Gene Rayburn.
In the 1980s, Trebek jumped to two short-lived shows, Battlestars, a sort of Hollywood Squares knockoff, and Pitfall. Then, at last, in 1984, the daytime revival of Jeopardy! gave him his permanent home.
Trebek's role of Jeopardy! host led to memorable appearances on sitcoms. Thelma Harper went on his show in the 1987 Mama's Family episode "Mama on Jeopardy!" while Cheers' know-it-all mailman had a hilarious Final Jeopardy! round in the 1990 classic "What is... Cliff Clavin?" As you will remember, Cliff scribbled down "Who are 3 people who've never been in my kitchen?"
In 2001, Trebek shaved his iconic mustache. His popularity hardly waned, as he continued to welcome geniuses like Ken Jennings.
In March 2019, Trebek announced he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. On November 8, 2020, Trebek passed away surrounded by friends and family at home. He was 80.
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