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Alex Trebek, Revered Host of ‘Jeopardy!’ for 36 Years, Dies at 80

MSN News

Alex Trebeck, the beloved host of gameshow “Jeopardy!” since its 1984 debut in syndication, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 80.

The official “Jeopardy!” Twitter account announced the news on Sunday morning, writing: “‘Jeopardy!’ is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends.”

Trebek revealed in March 2019 that he had been diagnosed with Stage Four pancreatic cancer. “I have lived a good life, a full life and I’m nearing the end of that life,” he told USA Today in October.

The jovial host won five Daytime Emmy Awards for outstanding game show host. In 2011, Trebek received a Peabody Award for “encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge”; “Jeopardy” is the only post-1960 game show to be so honored.

“Jeopardy,” a gameshow created by Merv Griffin that first ran on NBC from 1964-75, was once the province of host Art Fleming, who died in 1995. But it is now hard to think of the show as something separate from Trebek.

Trebek held the Guinness World Record for the most gameshow episodes hosted by the same presenter (same program) since June 13, 2014, having hosted 6,829 episodes of “Jeopardy!,” at that point, overtaking previous record holder Bob Barker.

The “Jeopardy” website has included a quote from Trebek — “I think what makes ‘Jeopardy’ special is that, among all the quiz and game shows out there, ours tends to reward and encourage learning” — and from his delivery of the “answers” to his interactions with the contestants on the show, Trebek showed himself to be a man interested in intellectual pursuits of all kinds — not an empty suit like so many other game show hosts.

Trebek hosted a number of other game shows, including “The Wizard of Odds,” “Double Dare,” “High Rollers,” “Battlestars,” “Classic Concentration” and “To Tell the Truth.”

George Alexander Trebek was born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He grew up in a bilingual household, speaking French and English. He earned a degree in philosophy at the University of Ottawa.

Interested in a career in news broadcasting, he joined the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), where he covered national news and special events for both radio and television. He first hosted a show, the CBC program “Music Hop,” in 1963. Trebek hosted the CBC’s classical music programs from 1967 to 1970, including performances by Glenn Gould.

Moving to the U.S. in 1973, he hosted a new NBC game show, “The Wizard of Odds.” A year later Trebek hosted the popular game show “High Rollers,” which had two runs on NBC (1974–76, 1978–80), and a syndicated season (1975–76). He hosted the short-lived CBS game show “Double Dare” and the second season of the Toronto-shot “The $128,000 Question.”

During the heyday of the TV game show, the hosts of such programs often appeared as panelists or players on other shows. In one guest appearance on a special week of NBC’s “Card Sharks” in 1980, Trebek competed against a number of other hosts in a week-long round robin tournament for charity that he ultimately won.

After a period of frustrating stints hosting shows of short duration, he took the reins of the new syndicated version of “Jeopardy” in 1984.

In 1987, while continuing to host “Jeopardy!,” Trebek took on hosting duties on NBC’s “Classic Concentration,” his second show for Mark Goodson. He hosted both shows simultaneously until September 1991, when “Classic Concentration” went off the air. In 1991 Trebek became the first person to host three American game shows at the same time, taking over as host of NBC’s “To Tell the Truth,” also for Goodson-Todman, from February until that series’ end in May.

A frequent guest star and guest host, he appeared at least twice on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”; and guested on CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” in December 2010 and on “Hot in Cleveland” in March 2014. On the series finale episode of “The Colbert Report” on December 18, 2014, Trebek greeted Colbert as the latter boarded a sleigh driven by Santa Claus and Abraham Lincoln and departed from the studio for the final time. He also appeared in many commercials for Colonial Penn Life Insurance.

In 2011 he received a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which presents the Daytime Emmys. He was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and was also honored as one of the “Giants of Broadcasting” by the Library of American Broadcasting in 2013, when he also received the Alexander Graham Bell Medal from the National Geographic Society for his 25 years as host of the National Geographic Bee.

Trebek had long-standing commitments to numerous charities and educational organizations. He sat on the boards of the National Geographic Society Education Foundation and the National Advisory Council for the Literary Volunteers of America. Trebek participated in 13 USO tours, and he traveled to many developing countries in support of World Vision, reporting on the organization’s efforts on behalf of children. He adopted a village in Zambia, Africa, helping to build a school, homes for teachers and a medical facility.

Trebek was married to Elaine Callei (now known as Elaine Trebek Kares) from 1974 until their divorce in 1981.

He is survived by his second wife, Jean, and their two adult children, Emily and Matthew.