Friday, January 8, 2021

'Jeopardy!' ends an endearing era with Alex Trebek's January 8 finale

Alex Trebek with one of his Emmy awards. He received  "Outstanding Game Show Host" Emmy
seven times,  and was presented with the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  He died Nov. 8, and his last taped show aired Jan. 8.
 

BELOVED GAME SHOW HOST SIGNED OFF WITHOUT FLOURISH

A giant billboard of host Alex
Trebek greets "Jeopardy" fans
who line up for tapings. We
joined the queue last autumn.
The billboard will remain.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
and Sony Pictures Television

A montage of Alex Trebek's
"Jeopardy!" moments
moved viewers Friday.
IF YOU tuned into "Jeopardy!" Friday, you did not hear an inspirational message from the game show's popular host, Alex Trebek. But you were treated to a bittersweet, 90-second montage. The moving tribute was set to Hugh Jackman singing the Peter Allen song “Once Before I Go." 
It was a whimsical, laughter-filled remembrance showing Trebek's evolution through his 36 years as host. We saw him with moustache and without, with curly black hair then with grey, with costumes and snappy suits from several decades. The show was taped in October, days before Trebek died, not realizing it would be his last.
Earlier in the week, he'd used his opening time Monday to deliver a powerful message urging unity, compassion and generosity.  That felt like a farewell to us.
ACCORDING to the show's executive producer, Mike Richards, “That was something Alex decided to do in that moment.” The audience greeted the impromptu message with enthusiastic applause, grateful shouts, cheers and whistles. That was his welcome in the studio all week. 
Many of us shed tears when Trebek's pancreatic cancer was diagnosed in March of 2019. 
San Francisco professor Jim
Gilligan won Friday's game.
Friday's winner, Jim Gilligan, said in an interview after Trebek's November death that the veteran host was a pro to the end, and that no one on set had any idea the final game would indeed be that. 
The correct answer to the "Final Jeopardy" clue was "What is isotope?"  The San Francisco professor was one of only two players to make it to that last question. "Alex was incredibly intrepid and very positive. I think we were privileged to have him around.
 Monday's spontaneous thundering ovation obviously moved Trebek who has hosted the popular show for 37 seasons. His final episode was taped Oct. 29.

"Jeopardy" staff ready the show and quiet the crowds before
the taping begins. The lady walking up the steps at left is
coming to order a viewer to put his phone camera away.
THAT LAST SHOW had no fanfare or formal farewell from the veteran host, nor any kind of personal message to viewers in the opening statement. That's because “Alex didn’t think it was going to be his last show,” Richards said.  The show was filmed only 10 days before Trebek died Nov. 8 at his Los Angeles, family at his side, following a heroic and much publicized battle with the disease. “He had planned to host the show again that next week, and was focusing on that," Richards said in an interview. "Then when he wasn’t feeling well, he told me, ‘I don't believe I'll be able to come this next Monday or Tuesday but let’s look at the following Monday and Tuesday’." Trebek died days later.

"Jeopardy!" champion Ken Jennings takes a
selfie with the legendary Trebek two years ago.
Jennings temporarily takes the helm next week.
AS RICHARDS 
A young Alex Trebek in
"Jeopardy's" earlier days.
and his team put the final touches on this week's final Trebek episodes, a search for his successor began.
“It's going very well. There are  lots of people very interested in hosting Jeopardy!, which is gratifying, and also appropriately reverent of the shoes they will be stepping into,” Richards said. “We have had some great conversations with people.” 
"Jeopardy" champion Ken Jennings will be the first guest host beginning Monday, Jan. 11, after Trebek's sign off Friday, Jan. 8.
Media mogul, entrepreneur
 and former TV host Katie 
Couric is a top contender.

Johnny Gilbert, now 96, says part of him died
when news of Trebek's death reached the crew.
'KEN STEPPED in and did a great job for us as a guest host,” Richards said. The plan is to have a series of guest hosts through spring, using the mix of stars' and past winners' appearances as prospective auditions, Richards told fans. “You'll also see big-name people who are not going to be considered for the role but they just love the show, love Alex and wanted to pay tribute,” he said. “We don't want to hurry to name a new person. We all are still mourning the loss of Alex, and I think to just turn around and name someone would be irresponsible and not thoughtful."
Alex Trebek and his wife Jean
at a fundraiser. His ashes rest
at their Los Angeles home.
Christene "Cookie" Meyers,
excited to be on the lot
where "Jeopardy!" is filmed.
 Trebek’s death leaves a void, including deep sadness for announcer Johnny Gilbert, 96, who golfed with Trebek and worked with him since 1978. 
 The staff of "Jeopardy!" is unanimous in its affection for Trebek, who Richards said, "was in inspiration to us all. He was so professional, so hard working, so intelligent and in all of that,  also incredibly kind. When you hear people say it will not be done like that again, that’s true.  But we can all aspire to do it that well again.”
A permanent new host won’t be named before spring, Richards said in a press conference. 
FORMER 'TODAY Show" host Katie Couric is believed to be on the replacement host list. Actor and children's PBS TV host LaVar Burton is also said to be a candidate for Trebek's replacement.
"Reading Rainbow" host
for many years, actor
LeVar Burton, is a
contender for new host.
Veteran actor and TV personality Betty White, 98, may take a turn as guest host, speculators say. She was married to "Password" game show host Allen Ludden until his death in 1981 and was a good friend of Trebek's.
“We are going to take our time and talk to a lot of people, have some people guest host and see what our fans think as well,” Richards said.
This week's final Trebek shows were originally slated for the end of December, but were moved into the new year. Check your local listings to see what time the show airs Jan. 8. (We get it at 6 p.m. in Montana and 7:30 p.m. in California. It airs as early as 4:30 in some markets.) 
We have cherished memories of our three "Jeopardy!" viewings and I'm proud to have met Trebek twice.  We'll keep the Kleenex nearby tonight as we watch his last show. In true show biz fashion, the "Jeopardy!" show must go on. Once it's up and running again, tickets are available on line. They are scarce, and coveted. Check out:  jeopardy.com/tickets

The regal cheetah mother surveys the landscape with her
juvenile, at left. Found usually in Africa, this family
lives happily and without cages near Palm Springs.
UP NEXT: While we're celebrating our favorite game show, we'll take readers with us to visit another California attraction. Join us as we journey into a world of spectacular nature and wildlife, at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Springs, California. It offers an  enlightening insight into the lives and beauty of animals around the globe.  We recommend a visit for families, couples or anyone with an affection for plants and wildlife. Come visit this national treasure, ranked among the top zoos and gardens in the world. Until the COVID situation is resolved, distancing and masking are enforced, and numbers are limited, so make a reservation first. Remember to explore, learn and live, and share these stories with your friends. Check out: livingdesert.org and 
whereiscookie.com

4 comments:

  1. What a lovely piece, Cookie. We remember when you and Keller visited because you invited us along and we deeply regret we couldn't join you.....(sigh). THANK you for this touching memoir and we'll be watching with you tonight.

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  2. Joliet 'Jeopardy' buffsJanuary 9, 2021 at 7:52 AM

    So happy to see your wonderful tribute. How lucky you could meet this man of such grace and wit.

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  3. Pasadena Game Show JunkiesJanuary 9, 2021 at 8:53 AM

    Bittersweet is the right word. Who can fill his shoes? Thanks for this respectful, interesting report..... how lucky you saw the tapings three times!

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  4. We watched "Jeopardy" during happy hour, which was enhanced by Alex and his witty asides and self-deprecating banter with the players. Always a delight. He is greatly missed and long admired.

    ReplyDelete