What can one say about Alex Trebek that has not already been said by so many, and with such great and sincere affection?
The TV Blog’s own writings on Trebek since he first announced publicly in March 2019 that he was battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer already celebrated his work and legacy, while taking care not to frame those thoughts as if writing an obituary before the fact.
As it happened, Trebek lived another 19 months after he went public with his diagnosis back then.
And he continued to work in a very tiring and exacting profession -- a Herculean effort that is among the things about Trebek that are being celebrated this week.
The news of his death spread quickly on Sunday. The news was stunning, even though we all knew in our hearts that it was coming eventually, since pancreatic cancer is one tough illness to beat.
However, there was Trebek just this past Friday, hosting “Jeopardy!” as usual. And he will likely be seen back at it again on Monday evening (a few hours after the writing of this TV Blog).
At no time over these many months did Trebek ever really look like a man who was battling cancer when he went before the cameras on “Jeopardy!”
On the contrary, he exhibited a level of professionalism, polish and fortitude that should serve as a standard for anyone in any profession who is called upon to perform gracefully and courageously under pressure.
In March 2019, after Trebek announced his cancer diagnosis on a short video that had been specially shot and produced at the “Jeopardy!” studios, I wrote the following paragraphs.
I am including them here because they are really what I would have written today, had I not already done so.
“The video,” I wrote then, “was a class act on the part of Trebek, a man from whom we would expect nothing less.
“For along with being classified by one and all as ‘widely beloved,’ Trebek also happens to be universally respected, which in a way is an even higher compliment.
“He is respected for traits and practices, as they relate to his profession, that are so ingrained that we take them for granted, even though the craft he has perfected in a lifetime on television is on the verge of extinction.
“It is the craft of the broadcaster. In no particular order, this role demands a keen attention to details such as diction and grooming.
“For talents like Alex Trebek, communication skills are everything. And when it comes to grooming, Alex Trebek would never think of hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ wearing anything other than a jacket and tie. …
“Audiences have watched Alex Trebek apply the fundamentals of professional broadcasting to hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ for [more than] 35 years. And there is no doubt that he is widely appreciated for the high standards he maintains.”
The death of Alex Trebek revives memories and awareness of the history and staying power of local broadcast television, which is the platform on which the syndicated “Jeopardy!” has been presented with such great success for so many years.
In 37 years of covering the TV business as a journalist, I never crossed paths with Trebek, never met him and never interviewed him.
One man who did was Steve Beverly, one of our readers here who is a veteran of local TV and a steadfast, authoritative historian of game shows and quiz shows.
A blog he posted late Sunday night gives an invaluable history of the current version of “Jeopardy!” with Trebek as host.
“When Alex [Trebek] was announced in trade publications [in 1984] as the host of a syndicated ‘Jeopardy!’ revival, a lot of heads turned with skepticism,” Beverly writes here.
At the time, Beverly writes, Art Fleming -- then 59 -- was still well-remembered as the host of the original “Jeopardy!” and many people expected him to be hired for the revival as well.
Beverly had the privilege of getting to know Trebek on several occasions, which he writes about in this very touching blog. I hereby give him the last word here.
“People are already speculating whether [all-time “Jeopardy!” champion Ken] Jennings will take over Alex's seat after Christmas,” writes Beverly. “I'm not entering into that discussion. That decision will be made public when appropriate.
“For now, I extend long-distance condolences and prayers to [Trebek's] wife and family. I reflect on a man's amazing number of visits in our homes over nearly a half-century, more than any relative any of us have.
“I will regularly tell the story of the courage of a man to face a camera and his audience gracefully at the age of 80, knowing he was fighting insurmountable odds, something few of us would have the strength to do.
“I'll take Thanks for the Memories for $1,000, Alex.”