Alex Trebek's final episode as the host of Jeopardy! will air on January 8, a few days before Ken Jennings fills the role the following Monday.
Jeopardy! fans will be treated to a weeklong special honoring Alex, featuring memorable episodes throughout his career as the host of the game show. The episodes will air starting Dec. 21 through Christmas.
It's unclear if Alex filmed a goodbye message on his last day in production, October 29. But the show's producers say that he filmed a speech during his last week of taping that felt very special.
As the host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek routinely filmed three to five episodes each day, weeks and months in advance of their actual airing date. Because of this, Trebek filmed many episodes before he died on November 8 at 80 years old, more than a year after first revealing his stage-4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Via the Jeopardy! website, Sony Pictures Television shares that the game host was last in the studio on October 29, just 10 days before he died. Jeopardy! has been airing new episodes featuring Alex in his role as host over the last few months, and the final new episode will air on January 8th, per the show's official announcement.
High on our list of things to be thankful for this year: Alex's Thanksgiving message from today's show. We hope you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving! pic.twitter.com/8OlpkSGi9r
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) November 26, 2020
After 37 years of hosting — Alex first stepped onto the Jeopardy! set in 1984 in his early 40s — one of America's most iconic television hosts had actually already imagined what his perfect sign-off on Jeopardy! would be. Earlier this year, while he was gearing up to release his memoir The Answer Is: Reflections on My Life, he told reporters at the Television Critics Association that he would only need 30 seconds at the end of the show to wish viewers well. He expanded upon that idea in an interview with ABC News in 2019.
"I've kind of, in my mind, rehearsed it already, and what I would do on that day is tell the director, 'Time the show down to leave me 30 seconds at the end. That's all I want," he told ABC News' Michael Strahan. "And I will say my goodbyes and I will tell people, ‘Don’t ask me who’s going to replace me because I have no say whatsoever. But I’m sure that if you give them the same love and attention and respect that you have shown me… then they will be a success and the show will continue being a success. And until we meet again, God bless you and goodbye.'”
It's unclear if Trebek ever got the chance to film his goodbye clip. But Jeopardy! producers have decided to honor the host's lasting legacy with the show's fans by airing a weeklong tribute showcasing Alex's best moments as host. While Alex's last episode was originally scheduled to air on Christmas Day, the show's team cleared the week of December 21 to air episodes and clips where Alex's true spirit really came through; there will be lots of laughs, and some tears, as fans relive the host's most iconic episodes.
There will only ever be one Alex Trebek, but I'm honored to be helping Jeopardy! out with this in January. https://t.co/2m2b5IQnkw
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) November 23, 2020
Alex's final episode has been pushed back to January 8, according to Variety, and the show will then air new episodes featuring Jeopardy! superstar Ken Jennings in the host role on January 11. Ken's role is temporary, and the show's team says that more guest hosts will soon be announced, as a new permanent host has yet to be announced.
Producers on the show shared that what ended up being Alex's last week hosting Jeopardy! felt much different from other episodes we've seen this year.
"He was the most professional person I worked with in any capacity. Here he was battling cancer, chemo, exhaustion, but you couldn’t tell when the cameras rolled," Mike Richards, an executive producer on Jeopardy!, told CNN. "The fact that he recorded what would be his final episode two weeks ago gives you an idea of how much he cared about the show."
Alex's impact is immeasurable. Thank you for sharing, Burt! pic.twitter.com/XgGGwJ8GlH
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) November 6, 2020
The producers on set "didn't know" that Alex's final week of filming Jeopardy! would truly be his last, but Richards says it was evident that the host's health was taking a toll on him. "He was in pain and we knew it," Richards said, adding that Alex could only get through three episodes a day instead of the typical schedule, which included five tapings. "I had chills the entire tape day… He gives a speech talking about togetherness, how important family is, and it will resonate even more now. It was so beautiful, we were all in tears."