Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Best game show host. "Who is Alex Trebek?"

I’ve always been a fan.

He’s done a great job hosting JEOPARDY. And it’s not easy. You need laser-focus, the ability to pronounce foreign names and other tongue-twisters correctly, to keep the game moving, and successfully engage with the contestants, many who are nervous and ill-at-ease.

When we did the CHEERS episode where Cliff went on JEOPARDY we also discovered that Alex was very funny. So much so that we wrote him into another scene and he appears at the bar.

A couple of months ago I went to watch them tape JEOPARDY. They do five shows in one day – three in the morning, and two after lunch. That’s a lot of clues to announce, money totals to keep track of, and be accurate in allowing and disallowing answers. The time between shows is like twenty minutes – just enough time for Alex and the winner to change clothes and maybe down a Red Bull.

It would be understandable if Alex had a little less energy on the fifth show of the day (or even fell asleep), but that’s never the case. He is up and present every episode regardless of when it was taped.

And what you don’t see at home is that during commercial breaks he steps out and answers audience questions, again displaying his great dry wit.

So under normal circumstances he does a remarkable job.

As I’m sure you know, he revealed to the world that he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Let’s be real – that’s a bad one. According to reports, his treatment is going well and he is in remission, but that treatment has been brutal.

Apparently, there are times between shows when he’s in his dressing room in tremendous pain. Producers have offered to cancel the rest of the day’s taping, but he always says no. And somehow he rallies to go before the cameras and do his usual outstanding job. I watch the show every day. I’ve been watching for a long time. I would never know he’s in pain if I hadn’t heard the story.

That, to me, is the ultimate professional.

My admiration is through the roof. And I’m sure, like you, I offer my best wishes and prayers.

If the answer is “courageous” the correct response is “Who is Alex Trebek?”

33 comments :

slgc said...

Wishing Alex all the best!

dgwphotography said...

Agreed that he is the best, but I still see him with his 70’s mustache while host Card Sharks

Roger Owen Green said...

There are 4 people I know personally who have DIED from pancreatic cancer IN 2019. As a one-time JEOPARDY! winner (1998), I wish him well.

Anonymous said...

Not to take anything away from Alex, everything you say is true and then some, but another great quiz show host just died: Robert Earle.
He was the host of GE College Bowl after taking over from Allen Ludden who went on to some game show named Password (I wonder whatever happened to that show).
Robert Earle was an employee at General Electric and he auditioned for the show against a bunch of professionals and won the job.
College Bowl was more difficult than Jeopardy (even the older, harder version) and much faster paced. As fast as Jeopardy is, it's a horse and buggy compared to a race car. And Robert Earle kept it moving.
There are not many tapes of College Bowl available but if you want to see one of if not the best single quiz show episodes in television history go to You Tube and type in Princeton vs. Agnes Scott. Compelling television and one of the greatest upsets ever, as well as an example of real female empowerment.
The captain of Princeton's team went on to become a five-time Jeopardy champion twenty-five years later.

Kirk said...

Whew! When I saw the title I thought, oh, no, he's left us. I'm old enough to remember Art Fleming, but Trebek now owns Jeopardy. I too wish him all the best.

Lemuel said...

My best wishes for Alex as well, but why is antenna TV still running those burial-insurance ads featuring Trebek?

Jay said...

I've always liked Alex, and I was so sorry to hear about his diagnosis. Here's hoping for the best.

On a related note, have you see the Jeopardy bits on "Conan"? They basically take real audio of Alex reading different answers, and they cut and edit them into nonsensical, absurdist answers. This was a recurring bit in the early years of the TBS show, and they were pretty funny in a delightfully stupid way. I know Alex eventually made a cameo on the show to introduce a clip of Conan doing the same thing.

VincentS said...

There is hope. https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/29/entertainment/alex-trebek-cancer-update/index.html

therealshell said...

Thank you for the contrarian point of view, Anonymous!

Mike Barer said...

I have always been a fan of Trebek and his erudite wit.

kitano0 said...

Very nice tribute, Ken!

Michael said...

The thing that struck me about the Princeton vs Agnes Scott College Bowl episode is that that Karen Gearreald, the contestant who won the game for Agnes Scott, was blind and it was never once mentioned on the show. It really was an exciting finish if you get a chance to watch it on Youtube.

J Lee said...

Being from Canada and having his game-show hosting career begin there, Alex was the subject of send-ups 40 years ago by SCTV, based on the Canadian version of the old GE College Bowl format (and their later bit with him as the frustrated host of a show called "Half-Wits" became the basis for Saturday Night Live's later 'Celebrity Jeopardy!" skits.

Even though I'm old enough to remember Jeopardy! in it's Art Fleming-Don Pardo incarnation, the current version just won't be the same when Trebek and announcer Johnny Gilbert are gone. Hopefully, we're still a ways off from that happening.

Andy Rose said...

I went to a taping a year ago, and I was impressed not only that Alex spent so much time talking to the audience, but also that he made his answers seem fresh and off-the-cuff even though I'm sure he's answered them all a thousand times. (I'm embarrassed to say that my question apparently is such a frequent one, the control room had a visual aid ready to go to accompany his answer.)

I was particularly impressed by the announcer, Johnny Gilbert, who is now 94 years old. He only attends the afternoon sessions now (he dubs his introductions for the M-W shows), but still handles the whole warm-up when he's there. He's surprisingly energetic, and so far as I could tell he doesn't need reading glasses or hearing aids.

@dgwphotography: Alex Trebek didn't host Card Sharks. You may be thinking of High Rollers.

Tony.T said...

The Cheers episode was excellent. And hats off to Alex.

Janet said...

All I could add is to search out the BUZZR digital rerun channel in your market. They carry "vintage" Alex every day from the late 80s when he also hosting CLASSIC CONCENTRATION.

Actually, watching that one day, Alex is bantering with the contestants and one allows that the try-out to get onto CONCENTRATION was easier than "that other show," and Alex was like, "It's okay to name it: JEOPARDY," and the woman acknowledged him.

It's funny just because the way it came out, it clearly was before JEOPARDY hit phenomenon status because it was acknowledged as more the "step-child" show of the two.

And also BUZZR occasionally runs a celebrity round of the 70s version of CARD SHARKS, and there comes Alex in full glory: white-guy Afro, gold chains and plenty of chest hair falling out of his shirt.

Definitely, we all wish him well...

MikeN said...

Trebek has been the default host for CollegeBowl's national championship for decades. One year, then instead had Herb Stempel, and set up a competition between him and one of the players, and yes the answer was Marty.

Tom Galloway said...

https://www.lamag.com/culturefiles/alex-trebek-cancer/ is a nice piece by J! champion Jackie Fuchs* about her and eight other significant J! champions being at the last taping of the current season.

*On the off chance Ken doesn't know, under the name Jackie Fox she was the initial bassist for the Runaways. Had the pleasure of playing on a team with her last time I attended the O'Brien's killer pub trivia (which regularly includes many former J! players and champs as players) and she's a nice and very sharp person.

In a strange coincidence, original J! host Art Fleming died of pancreatic cancer. In a really strange coincidence, I was watching some J! episodes that'd piled up on the DVR from when I was out of the country, and one that aired just a few weeks before Alex announced his diagnosis had the category "Alex's Bucket List".

Taping has finished for the current season back in April, so he has had a few months to focus on treatment and hopefully recovery. It resumes in July (don't know if it's early, mid-, or late July).

Possibly also of interest, the Princeton captain in the Agnes Scott match, Steve Chernicoff, is still an active participant in trivia circles, frequently attending the major annual convention in Vegas.

Anonymous said...

I have never heard a bad word of Alex Trebek which is rare in TV, and he is proof that in TV pink slips at a certain age does not always prevail.

Ken, have you seen the latest from ITV (England's commercial network)?
They are banning "all-male comedy writing teams on TV"

And no, this is not a joke.

https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-48668652

Just imagine if you and David were English, and trying to break into TV now?

Kosmo13 said...

We know from The X-Files that Alex Trebek leads a double life, working also as one of the Men in Black.

gottacook said...

MikeN: Sorry, but what are you talking about? There is no connection that I've ever heard of between Alex Trebek and College Bowl Co. Inc., which is now inactive but until 2008 ran regional and national championship tournaments through the Association of College Unions International. College Bowl has been supplanted in recent years by National Academic Quiz Tournaments and other organizations.

(I myself participated as a grad student, 1987-93 - including as an alternate in College Bowl's last appearance on TV, the 1987 national championship single-elimination tournament on the Disney Channel, taped at Epcot and moderated by Dick Cavett - and several teammates have gone on to do extremely well on Jeopardy!)

ODJennings said...

My favorite Alex moments are when he gets to ask a question about Canada (I suspect his contract guarantees a minimum number per month) and no one gets it. His look of sadness and resignation is priceless.

MikeN said...

Gottacook, our coach told us about that the year Herb Stempel was the guest, that it's usually Alex Trebek.

Nipsey Muscle said...

Not to sound angry or sullen,
But the best game show host was Bill Cullen.
That's the reality
And if you disagree
I'll take a chair and bash your skull in.

jcs said...

I've been in preclinical cancer research for 20 years. Stage 4 pancreatic cancer is one of the worst diagnoses you can receive, the 5 year survival rate (a common clinical measure for cancers) is minimal. Unfortunately there are still types of cancer out there that are nearly impossible to cure. Nevertheless, there's always the chance that someone beats the odds and Alex Trebek might be that guy.

It's great that the current US administration is focussed on science and medical R&D to improve the lives of patients. I especially applaud President Trump for his unwavering support for the NIH. As a politician you can be easily tempted to spend lots of money on some ludicrous populist project instead of investing in long-term academic endeavours.

gottacook said...

Contrary to what jcs wrote above, "For the third year in a row, President Donald Trump's administration has unveiled a budget request to Congress that calls for deep spending cuts at many federal science agencies, including a 13% cut for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a 12% cut for the National Science Foundation (NSF), while providing hefty increases for the military." (Science, 11 March 2019; www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/03/trump-once-again-requests-deep-cuts-us-science-spending)

ELP said...

I wish him well and we all make mistakes. However, when he moderated the PA gubernatorial debate last year it did not go well. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/10/02/alex-trebek-moderated-a-gubernatorial-debate-in-pennsylvania-it-didnt-go-well/

Brian said...

Agreed. Big Jeopardy fan even though Alex Trebek has never been in my kitchen.

Barry Traylor said...

I have great admiration for Alex Trebek. What courage this man has.

Tom Galloway said...

Can't speak to Alex's participation or lack thereof with College Bowl, but Art Fleming hosted the national College Bowl championships on CBS Radio from 1979-1982. My alma mater, UNC-CH won in 1982, something of a surprise as we lost at least three, I think four, of our top six players in 1981 to graduation. I was an alternate in '81, and while only the top four attended the matches, everyone who did had the same two things to say about Art Fleming; 1) he's a big guy; 6'4" and built accordingly and 2) he was very nice and friendly to all the teams and players.

mike said...

I do believe that jcs was being sarcastic. At least I hope so.

jcs said...

@gottacook
Sorry, my remarks about the Trump administration promoting medical research are pure sarcasm. I'm aware that in a rare example of bipartisanship Republicans worked with Democrats to prevent the cuts at NIH that Trump had planned.

gottacook said...

jcs - Glad to hear it; it's not always easy to tell online, especially following an obviously serious first paragraph. This is why the " /s " tag was invented. (I'm a longtime member of the Science editorial staff, although not in the news department.)