Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. Alex Trebek

Illustration for article titled R.I.P. Alex Trebek
Photo: Astrid Riecken (Getty Images)

Alex Trebek, the longtime host of the syndicated TV game show Jeopardy!, has died. He was 80.

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Trebek, who was born in Ontario, Canada in 1940 but became a naturalized United States citizen in 1998, grew up in a bilingual French-English home and graduated from the University of Ottawa with a philosophy degree. While finishing up his college career, he began working for the Canadian Broadcasting Company in 1961. Originally with an eye toward broadcast journalism, Trebek spent several years working as an announcer for a wide variety of news and sporting events for the radio division of the CBC.

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His television career began in 1963 as host of a Canadian music program called Music Hop, and throughout the ensuing decade Trebek worked as a host for a variety of CBC programs, including game shows, classical music programs, and even a weekly skating show. In 1973, he moved to Los Angeles and began a new phase of his life hosting American game shows, more than half a dozen between 1973 and 1983.

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However, it was with the daily syndicated revival of the ’60s-era game show Jeopardy! that Trebek found his subsequent livelihood, taking on the role of host from its debut in 1984 until the end of his life. During this time, he would periodically take on other hosting duties as well, even making broadcast history by becoming the first person to ever host three American game shows at the same time (along with Jeopardy!, he hosted the NBC programs Classic Concentration and To Tell The Truth in the spring of 1991).

Trebek became a well-known face in American and Canadian popular culture, often appearing on talk shows and as himself in various sitcoms—perhaps most famously in an episode of Cheers, in which the host got to inform the character Cliff Clavin that his answer to the clue of “Archibald Leach, Bernard Schwartz, and Lucille LeSueur” (“Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?”) was very, very wrong.

He received a lifetime achievement award at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 2011, and in 2014 Guinness World Records awarded Trebek the world record for most episodes of a game show hosted, with 6,829 at the time, a number that subsequently swelled to more than 7,000. He also worked regularly with a variety of charities and philanthropic organizations, including World Vision Canada and United Service Organizations.

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Trebek made a public announcement on March 6, 2019, stating he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and saying he intended to fight the disease despite the odds, even joking he would need to beat it, given he was contractually obligated to continue hosting Jeopardy! through 2022. Earlier this year, though, in gentle acknowledgement of the fact that he wouldn’t be around to host the show forever, he mentioned that he refused to have any input whatsoever on who would host the show after him. He is survived by wife Jean and two children, Matthew and Emily.

Alex McLevy is a writer and editor at The A.V. Club, and would kindly appreciate additional videos of robots failing to accomplish basic tasks.

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