The death of Alex Trebek from pancreatic cancer Sunday leaves many questions about the future of Jeopardy!, the game show he hosted for 36 years.
News broke over the weekend that the beloved Canadian-born star died, less than two years after his stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis, at age 80. Having long ago already won over his viewership, admiration for him only grew as he candidly shared his cancer journey.
Earlier this year, Trebek said, “I don’t foresee” retiring from the show — and he never did. His final day in the Culver City, Calif., studio was Oct. 29 — just 10 days before he died. The show said in a statement that his final episode airs on Dec. 25.
As for a possible replacement, “The show is not announcing plans for a new host at this time,” the statement said.
One person being speculated on as possible Trebek’s successor is Ken Jennings, who holds the record for 74 straight wins on the show.
Jennings posted a sweet tribute to Trebek, saying he’s “grateful for every minute I got to spend with him.” He also called him a “deeply decent man.”
On Monday, Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards appeared on the Today show and spoke about Trebek’s last day on the set.
“I knew he was in an enormous amount of pain, and as he was leaving, I saw him at the door and I said, ‘You know, that was maybe the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen,’” he recalled. “He kind of had his head down and he looked up and said, ‘Well, thank you.’ And that, you knew, when he accepted that, that he was really fighting and it was just so important for him to do this show and to support everything that it means to America.”
Richards revealed that Trebek spent his weekend surrounded by family and friends. He had been married to wife Jean since 1990 and they had two adult children, Emily, who is a real estate developer in L.A., and Matthew, the owner of Harlem, N.Y. restaurants Oso and Lucille’s.
“He had a swing in his backyard that he loved. He actually rebuilt it earlier this year. He was very handy. I don’t know if a lot of people know that,” Richards said on Today. “And even in his book,” The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life, which came out in July, “he described that he wanted his final day to be sitting on his swing next to his wife, Jean, and kind of watching the horizon. And he got to do that.”
Richards added, "He was coherent. He wasn’t in pain, and the fact that he had a nice final day, I think makes all of us in the Jeopardy! family feel much better.”
Trebek’s death was announced by Jeopardy on Sunday.
Sony Pictures Television also paid tribute.
In the statement from the show, Richards called Trebek’s death “an enormous loss for the Jeopardy! staff, crew and all of Alex’s millions of fans. He was a legend of the industry that we were all lucky to watch night after night for 37 years. Working beside him for the past year and a half as he heroically continued to host Jeopardy! was an incredible honor. His belief in the importance of the show and his willingness to push himself to perform at the highest level was the most inspiring demonstration of courage I have ever seen. His constant desire to learn, his kindness, and his professionalism will be with all of us forever.”
Trebek’s edition of the show debuted on Sept. 10, 1984. The original incarnation aired from 1964 to 1975. There were also weekly nighttime syndicated edition (1974 - 1975) and a revival, The All-New Jeopardy! (1978 - 1979). The three earlier versions were all hosted by Art Fleming, who died of pancreatic cancer in 1995.
In a statement, Pat Sajak called Trebek’s death “a tremendous loss for his family, his friends, his co-workers and the millions of viewers who followed his long and illustrious career. It was an honor for me to be a part of his professional family for nearly 40 years. His strength and courage and grace during his recent health struggles inspired countless others. Alex was truly one of a kind.”
Vanna White said in her own statement, “I will cherish the many memories I have shared with Alex Trebek that date back well before either of our careers took off. I will always be in awe of the way he faced the battle he fought so valiantly and I'm devastated to lose my longtime friend. My heart is with his family, friends, co-workers and fans. There will never be another Alex Trebek and he will truly be missed.”
Many other stars have shared stories about and tributes to the TV icon:
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