‘Jeopardy!’ Producer Says Alex Trebek Gives an Emotional Speech in Final Episodes

Kayla Blanton
·4 min read
‘Jeopardy!’ Producer Says Alex Trebek Gives an Emotional Speech in Final Episodes

From Prevention

  • The late Alex Trebek’s final episodes of Jeopardy! are scheduled to air Monday, Jan. 4 through Friday, Jan. 8.

  • Executive producer Mike Richards revealed the longtime host gives a “sentimental speech that he somehow knew the world needed.”

  • Trebek passed away on Nov. 8 after announcing he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March 2019.

The late Alex Trebek’s final episodes of Jeopardy! are scheduled to air Monday, Jan. 4 through Friday, Jan. 8. They were taped in November, and at the time, no one—not Trebek himself nor his executive producer Mike Richards—knew that 10 days after they wrapped that tournament, Trebek would take his last breath.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Richards revealed that not only was Trebek generally ill during those episodes—doing his best to triumph pancreatic cancer—he’d just had intestinal surgery, which few people knew about. Oh, and there was a pandemic going on (which had temporarily shut down Jeopardy! in March), but Trebek insisted that the show must go on.

In fact, he wanted to be the first show to resume production mid-pandemic. “The more frustrated he was that he wasn’t in taping, the better he was feeling,” Richards explained. “He was forceful about it. He wanted back in.” According to TVLine, taping resumed in late July. “I talked to him seven days before what would end up being his final taping session, and I said, ‘Alex, you're barely up and around. We have a long way to go before you're gonna be back in the studio taping,’” Richards recalled. “He got very firm, which I loved, and he goes, ‘I'll be there. Don’t you cancel anything.’ And sure as heck, he was. He was a warrior.”

When Trebek and the crew returned with coronavirus safety measures in place, Richards remembers there being “a heightened sense in the room,” watching Trebek return to his hosting podium after just having surgery. “I had chills throughout the first taping,” he said, “because I was watching him, going, ‘How is he doing this?’ He came in at a higher level than normal, and his normal was excellent.”

Not only did Trebek perform his regular moderating duties, he gave a sentimental speech that he somehow knew the world needed. “On that first episode, he walked out, and you’ll see it when it airs, he gives this amazing speech about the holidays and coming together and being strong and taking care of each other. And we didn’t know he was gonna do that; he just walked out and did it,” Richards said. “And you’ll see in the episode, we all started to clap, and there’s points in Jeopardy! where you clap and there’s points in Jeopardy! where you don’t; that’s not a normal spot. You can see [Trebek] kind of look over at us as he was crossing to reveal the categories: ‘What are you guys clapping about?’”

During his last few hours on-screen, Richards said Trebek looks “as healthy as can be,” and that’s because of his determination to work. “He had that much willpower. And we knew how much he was fighting, and that's what made the performance even more impressive,” the producer added. He was so impressed, in fact, that he made the daring move of extending a compliment to the host—something Trebek never liked. “I went to the door where [he exited] and said, ‘Hey, that was the most incredible thing I've ever seen,’” Richards reflected. “He was exhausted, obviously, and he looks up and he goes, ‘Thank you.’ He knew what he had done and appreciated the fact that we all knew what he had done. So those last two days are very special, and I’ll never forget them.”

Before Trebek’s death, his final episodes (which were just regular episodes then) were scheduled to air during the week of Christmas. But Richards and his team knew that in order to give Trebek’s last on-air moments the reverence they deserve, they had to be moved. “The week of Christmas is crazy,” he explained. “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 … 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.”

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