Earlier this year, iconic Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek died at the age of 80 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He’d been the host of Jeopardy! since the game show’s revival in 1984, winning seven Daytime Emmy Awards for his work on the series. Trebek’s final appearance on the show was set for Christmas Day, but the producers postponed the host’s final shows until January 4th. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, executive producer Mike Richards explains why they made that decision. “We looked at where that final week was going to air, and the week of Christmas is crazy,” he says. “People are all over the place. They’ve got a lot of family obligations, and a lot of distractions. And the NBA is back, so that could lead to preemptions. So it really came down to, we wanted our fans and the fans of Alex to be able to really not feel stressed to see his final episodes, and really savor those last five. As we have. I screen each episode, and it took me a long time to do those five, because I really wanted to enjoy every nuance. I’ve studied his performance at a very intense level, and I wanted to really get everything I could out of watching him do it one last time. And I feel that his fans would want to be able to have the same opportunity.”
Trebek received his diagnosis in March 2019. Earlier this year, he discussed the emotional ups and downs of living with it.
“Now I’d be lying if I said the journey had been an easy one,” Trebek previously shared in a video update. “There were some good days but a lot of not-so-good days. I joked with friends that the cancer won’t kill me, the chemo treatments will. There were moments of great pain, days when certain bodily functions no longer functioned and sudden, massive attacks of great depression that made me wonder if it really was worth fighting on. But I brushed that aside quickly because that would have been a massive betrayal – a betrayal of my wife and soulmate, Jean, who has given her all to help me survive. It would have been a betrayal of other cancer patients who have looked to me as an inspiration and a cheerleader of sorts, of the value of living and hope, of my faith in God and the millions of prayers that have been said on my behalf.”
Ken Jennings will be the first guest host when Jeopardy! returns as the search for Trebek’s permanent successor continues. He’ll be followed by more celebrity hosts.