There’s the Hollywood saying that you should never work with animals or kids—but maybe they should add digitized puppets to the list.
Following the news this weekend of Alex Trebek’s death at the age of 80, many have been sharing their favorite clips from his work hosting Jeopardy! and even some deeper cuts of his time on The Wizard of Odds, High Rollers, Battlestars, Classic Concentration, To Tell the Truth, and Double Dare (not the Nickelodeon show). But one former colleague was moved by their grief to upload a high-res version of an unaired pilot they worked on with Trebek in 1983: Malcolm.
“Alex passed away today. It was not unexpected and yet knowing the end was coming didn’t make it any easier at all on the rest of us. But every day since his diagnosis I know he considered a bonus,” reads the caption to the YouTube upload David Greenfield, who is listed as an associate producer for Malcom according to IMDb. “Condolences aside, I’m putting the show Malcolm on Youtube today simply because it’s the first show I did with Alex and I don’t quite know what do with myself right now, let alone how to say goodbye.”
There’s an appreciated simplicity to shows like syndication successes Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy! that are clearly lacking in Malcolm—a convoluted trivia game that asks opponents to work together to answer questions and is further complicated by the insertion of a character named Malcolm who co-hosts the show with Trebek and “helps” the contestants with their answers throughout the game. (In reality, Malcom was an Aniforms puppet voiced by actor Rob Stone. The puppet was filmed backstage with a special camera that edited out the puppeteering controls in real time and flattened out the image to make it look like a cartoon.)
Here is what more Greenfield had to say about working with Trebek on the Malcolm pilot:
The show was shot at NBC in Burbank, we had a tiny staff and a tinier budget. It was executive produced by Merrill Heatter and Art Alisi (Hollywood Squares, High Rollers) and having never worked with them before, I was hired to write the show and act as associate producer with them. I really wanted the opportunity to work with these guys. Laid back, generous, funny, and giant hearts. Anyway,the pilot was a snap, Alex was always easygoing, articulate, charming, even subdued, and despite this pilot attempting to make him a second banana to Malcolm, I always felt the Malcolm character was too annoying and the chemistry between Malcolm and Alex, who was charismatic while Malcolm was not, didn’t work in my opinion and made Malcolm more of a thorn in Alex’s side then the “star” of the show. Despite the show not selling, I worked with Alex right after that on the NBC’ game show “The New Battlestars”, and then again, just before he got Jeopardy, produced another pilot with Merrill, Art, and Alex, this one, “Lucky Rollers”, an updated, altered version of “High Rollers”, with Alex hosting again. A terrific, affable, genuine host and human being, ....and I can easily say I never saw him lose his temper even once. Never in a bad mood. Anyway, this pilot may have been posted before, doesn’t matter, more chances to see it, but I just wanted to salute the man and there is no good way to say goodbye, just wanted to see it again and ok, I’ll shut up, so I took two minutes to upload it. Rest in peace Alex.
Come for Trebek, stay for the contestant vying to win an “Oriental holiday.” Ah the ’80s.