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Best Wishes for ‘Jeopardy!’ Host Alex Trebek

March 8th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

What I miss most about television here in France is easy access to the American game show Jeopardy!

I have been watching it since I was a kid, back when the show was hosted in New York by Art Fleming. It ran for a decade, went off the air, then returned in 1984, much to my excitement, and it had a new host:

Alex Trebek, a Canadian and former newsman, took over as the show was reincarnated in Los Angeles and was key in making the show one of modern TV’s most cherished institutions.

The big Jeopardy news this week is about Trebek, who announced a few days ago that he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which is a formidable foe.

Trebek expressed his intent to fight the cancer to the best of his and his doctors’ abilities, and we wish him well in that battle.

In a video released a few days ago, he said: “Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.”

It didn’t take long before it became clear that Trebek is the real star of the show.

We can feel how he prepares for matches, going over every clue that might be shown in a particular game. Alex doesn’t botch a pronunciation; he doesn’t stumble as he reads out the clues; he doesn’t offer the intellectual equivalent of a “participation” trophy and coddle also-rans. He seems almost puckish when a contestant fights his/her way through to a correct response to a difficult clue.

He seems real-life well-informed. Foreknowledge of the board helps, certainly, but I think there is more to him than that. I feel like he is a guy who believes in being informed and is proud to do what he does — bringing a half-hour of higher-brow culture to the small screen.

Trebek and the producers of the show have maintained Jeopardy! as the only really serious (and long-running) American quiz contest on network TV. Would-be eggheads have been playing along with the game for decades, shouting “questions” at the TV as each clue is presented.

Trebek brings gravitas to his role as arbiter of the intellectual warfare that often titillates the crossword/nerd class.

Jeopardy! distinguished itself as a show that did not require a pretty face or outbursts of “personality” to gain an audience with Trebek in front of a live audience. “Dignified” applies.

Jeopardy! casts people who were good enough to pass the tests — even if that person had a personality as dry as the Sahara.

Trebek seems to appreciate a hard-fought battle among the contestants at least as much as the audience back home. Clumsy or timid contestants, those who look like deer-in-headlights, sometimes make Trebek almost contemptuous. That is, those of us who watch regularly knew when the host is getting fired up by a good game — or becoming exasperated by a bad one.

The show has had many fans, and Trebek is a significant part of it all.

A handful of us fans managed to get cast on the show, and made an appearance. That was my situation, back in 1988, when the show seemed to be picking up momentum and become an even more important intellectual property.

I survived the written test, and demonstrated I could play the game — ringing in; waiting to be acknowledged by Alex; phrasing the answer in the form of a question. And a month or so later, I was in.

I finished second after missing a Super Bowl question (shameful!) for $500 in the first round of “answers”, and ringing in a millisecond too early on the second-to-last card on the board — which was a daily double I could not access, per rules of the game.

I shared a set with him, back in 1988, and back then he did not spend a lot of time with contestants. I do not remember any interaction with him before the show, and have no idea if he has changed that.

His only exchanges with contestants generally featured the person who had just won, though at one time all three contestants would gather around Trebek as the credits rolled. When the show wrapped, he generally was off the stage quickly. Perhaps because Jeopardy! (at least in 1988) banged out five shows in a single day — three before lunch, two after — and Alex had to go change into a different suit.

Anyway, I very much appreciate him and the show, and it is hard to imagine Jeopardy! without him.

Best wishes, Alex Trebek!





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