This week, the final episodes that Alex Trebek taped as host of Jeopardy! will air. The beloved host filmed the shows not long before his death from pancreatic cancer on November 8 at age 80. The final five episodes with Trebek at the helm begin tonight and wrap up on Friday, January 8.
Alex Trebek during a rehearsal for 'Jeopardy! Power Players Week' at DAR Constitution Hall on April 21, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Tonight's episode will begin with Trebek's "powerful message about the season of giving," Sony Pictures Television, the producers of the syndicated trivia show, said in a press release on December 30. Trebek continued working on the show up until 10 days before he died, all the while undergoing painful cancer treatments. The final episodes were taped October 29, according to Variety.
"He was in enormous pain," Mike Richards, an executive producer of Jeopardy!, said during a Today show appearance on Monday morning. "He was, you know, ten days away from passing away. And you will not sense that in any of these episodes. He is strong. He sounds great. He's funny. And he's amazing."
On Sunday, the official Twitter account for Jeopardy! reminded viewers that Trebek's final shows would air this week, with a montage of moments captured over the years since Trebek became the host in 1984.
Sony originally announced that the last episode of Trebek's pre-taped shows would be broadcast on Christmas day. The company later changed course, and the Jeopardy! website announced on November 23 that the final episodes would be moved to the first full week of 2021 "in order to give his millions of fans a chance to see his final appearances" without all of the holiday bustle interrupting their routines.
Trebek, who was born in Canada but later became a naturalized American citizen, first announced his cancer diagnosis in March 2019. He managed to fight the disease for more than a year and a half past that point before succumbing to it this fall. Since that time, show producers have been playing reruns from Trebek's iconic tenure.
Following Friday's final episode with Trebek, Jeopardy! will resume new episodes starting on January 11 with guest host Ken Jennings. Jennings is the winningest contestant in the show's history with 74 consecutive victories. In January 2020, he also earned the title of "Greatest of All Time" after winning a primetime edition of the show against other former champions.
The show has not yet named a new permanent host, but some rumored contenders include Jennings, George Stephanopoulos, LeVar Burton, Neil deGrasse Tyson and even Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak.
But for many Jeopardy! fans, Trebek will remain irreplaceable. As Richards said of the late host on the Today show, "He made being smart cool."
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