Iconic game show host dies at 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer for the last 20 months
Fans are mourning the loss of beloved game show icon Alex Trebek, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer Sunday morning at the age of 80.
Trebek was host of long-running Jeopardy!, which has received a surge of buzz in recent years, thanks to the winning streaks of James Holzhauer and before him, Ken Jennings. Since the game show returned to the airwaves in 1984 after a nine-year break, Jeopardy! remained among the top five syndicated programs throughout its entire 37-year run, a subject I took a deep dive into last year.
“Words can’t even describe what a tremendous loss this is for our Jeopardy! family, said Steve LoCascio of CBS Television Distribution, who took over distributing Jeopardy after acquiring original syndicator King World Productions. “Not only was Alex a television icon, but he was one of the most genuine, kind, caring people you could ever know. The way he openly and bravely battled cancer, while continuing to host the show, was a true inspiration. He has brought joy to the millions of fans – including generations of families — who have welcomed Alex into their living room each night. Our hearts go out to Alex’s wife and children. We have truly lost a legend.”
Born in Sudbury, Ontario, Trebek’s first broadcasting job was a radio anchor/reporter position at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). In 1963, he was the host of a Canadian dance music show, Music Hop.
Trebek was actually the host of many game shows in the 1970s and 1980s, including The Wizards Of Odds, High Rollers, Battlestars, and Double Dare (not related to the Nickelodeon game show.) During the time Jeopardy! was on the air in syndication, Trebek hosted Classic Concentration and took over for Lynn Swann as host of To Tell The Truth for NBC.
As a Jeopardy! host, he also appeared on Cheers, Mama’s Family, Beverly Hills 90210, and voiced an animated version of himself on The Simpsons.
Trebek has won six Daytime Emmy Awards as Outstanding Game Show Host while Jeopardy! during his run has won 33 Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game Show, plus a Peabody. Trebek also accepted a 2020 Television Critics Association Career Achievement Award.
In March 2019, Trebek announced he was undergoing chemotherapy for stage four pancreatic cancer and updated fans on his progress thru social media. But later, he had to undergo additional chemotherapy sessions. Nevertheless, he continued to host.
This past March, Jeopardy! suspended production due to the coronavirus pandemic as Trebek was at a high risk of contracting the deadly disease due to his condition, but did resume production for season 37 this summer with all the proper safety protocols in place.
Jeopardy! producer Sony Pictures Television said in a statement the final episode with Trebek hosting is scheduled to air December 25, although it could be prone to network pre-emptions as it falls on Christmas Day. It is too soon to tell what would happen with Jeopardy! afterword though stations have contracts with the show through the end of the 2022-23 season.
Trebek is survived by wife Jean, and his two children.