"Jeopardy!" host and American icon, Alex Trebek, was recently diagnosed in 2019 with stage four pancreatic cancer, one of the most aggressive kinds, usually accompanied with a poor prognosis. Since the initial diagnosis, he had shared that the cancer was in remission, only for it to come back in full force.
But true to the professional that Trebek is, he continued to admirably host the game show and do so without anyone noticing that he was struggling through the chemotherapy and other experimental treatments that have rendered him in pain, fatigued, and with an overall sense of being unwell. Recently, though, Trebek came out and shared that he struggled mightily during the Greatest of All Time tournament.
Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time Tournament
The Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time tournament featured three of the best contestants ever to play on the show in its illustrious history. The contestants were made up of Ken Jennings, who holds the longest winning streak on the show, in addition to, earning the second-most ever; Brad Rutter, who has won more than any other contestant ever with over 4.5 million dollars; and most recently, James Holzhauer, who currently holds twenty different Jeopardy! records and is famous for his all-in daily doubles.
The format of the show was unique to other special tournaments that routinely occur throughout the year. The three contestants played for the best of seven, much like a World Series or NBA Finals matchup. Another stark difference was the duration of the game. The three contestants played in a total of two games, each with two rounds and lasting for an hour of air time, instead of the traditional thirty minutes. This last aspect might have been the part which made this tournament so difficult for an ailing Trebek, as he was on his feet for double the amount of time.
Trebek Has Noticed His Own Struggles on the Show as a Result of Treatment
During the taping of the "Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time" tournament, Trebek recalls notifying and speaking with producers that he was having a bit of difficulty, although he was told that nobody noticed his struggles, he shared with the Star Tribune. Trebek replied, "I said, 'Well noticed.'"
But according to Ken Jennings, Trebek has the uncanny ability to snap into the hosting role as if nothing has ever happened to his health. Jennings shared his account of what transpired during the tapings of the special tournament.
"The chemo is rough, but he can always just turn it on," Jennings said. "The music came on, the lights came on, he would just stride out there and nail that show like nobody else. It was exciting to see him doing so well and taking that diagnosis so bravely. To me, he’s the last of that kind of old-school broadcasters, and it’s such a pleasure to watch."
As Long As His Peformance Doesn't Suffer, He'll Continue to Host
Despite Trebek being a public figure that carries on a very professional facade, he hasn't strayed away from being candid with viewers in interviews regarding his fight against pancreatic cancer. He recently spoke to Michael Strahan in a special on ABC about his role in Jeopardy! and the history of the show. In the interview, he didn't shy away from the courage he believes he possesses in knowing that he is fighting an ultimately losing battle. Trebek is content, though, that when it's his time, it's his time.
Trebek also spoke to Canada's CTV about how the treatment for his cancer was creating sores in his mouth, preventing the host from properly enunciating some of the words and pronunciations required of him. He promised, though, as long as his producers felt that he was able to do the job, he wouldn't step away.
"I'm sure there are observant members of the television audience that notice also, but they're forgiving," he told Canada's CTV, explaining that the chemo has caused sores in his mouth that can make it difficult for him to enunciate his words. "But there will come a point when [fans and producers] will no longer be able to say, 'It's ok…' I will keep doing it as long as my skills do not diminish, and they have started to diminish."
The Future of Trebek Hosting Jeopardy!
Trebek has not made any plans to step away from the show, despite his struggles with the chemotherapy and other treatments, although the thought has crossed his mind, at least in terms of how he will sign off for a final time. Still, Trebek is contractually signed to host the show through 2022, so we'll have to wait and see how his prognosis progresses over the next years or so. It will be a sad day when he does finally leave, but we should have many more episodes to enjoy his dry humor and absolute professionalism as one of the best in the business before that time comes.