The greatest game show host of all time. A near-daily presence in many of our lives for more than three decades. A tireless defender of knowledge. A virtual lock for the Mustache Hall of Fame.

Who is Alex Trebek?

Trebek, longtime host of the game show “Jeopardy!”, died in November, nearly two years after he announced he had pancreatic cancer.

But the man with all the answers — or is it questions? — was taping episodes up until 10 days before his death. The last of those episodes airs Friday. After 37 years and more than 8,000 episodes, an American icon is leaving television.

Shortly after Trebek announced he had cancer, “Jeopardy!” contestant James Holzhauer began a record-breaking run, drawing attention to the show. Throughout Holzhauer’s time on the show, Trebek was in great pain. But it never showed.

That was Alex Trebek — an old-school television professional who made it look easy.

Early in his career, after moving to the United States, the Canada-born Trebek hosted a series of failed game shows. TV executives, however, knew then what we all know now: If those shows didn’t succeed, it was because of the format, not the host.

All the jumping around stopped in 1984, when “Jeopardy!” was revived with Trebek in command. The show has run without interruption from that day until Friday, with Trebek as host every night save one, on April Fools’ Day 1997, when he switched spots with “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak.

In 2014, he passed Bob Barker of “The Price is Right” as the longest-running game show host. But he hardly slowed down — the show, still going strong, won the Emmy for outstanding game show in 2017, one of 35 Emmys “Jeopardy!” has received.

The show also won the Peabody Award “for decades of consistently encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge.”

Trebek himself has five Emmys, as well as stars on the Hollywood and Canada walks of fame.

He’s also become part of pop culture. He’s been parodied on “Saturday Night Live,” and he could cause a stir just by changing his facial hair.

Much of that comes from the dignity and decency he brought each weekday night to living rooms across the country. Curious, kind and confidant, he led the contestants through what can be for them a stressful half-hour. He could be genuinely delighted by a contestant’s story or idiosyncrasies. And when there was a big moment in the game play, he rarely failed to match it.

Of course, he could be short with a contestant who rambled on too much, and slightly condescending to those who missed easy questions — something he once referred to as his “disappointed daddy” tone.

But all that just rounded out the personality that made “Jeopardy!” such a comforting, fun watch over the years. Trebek’s death leaves a hole.

In a 2018 interview, Trebek mused about what he would do when he finally put “Jeopardy!” behind him.

He’d have a glass of wine with his wife, he said. “Then we’ll look at each other and say, ‘What next? What now?'”

When Monday night rolls around, the theme music starts, and Alex doesn’t walk out, many Americans will be thinking the same thing.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that Alex Trebek leaves us with a question.


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