Tribute to Alex Trebek

Beloved Jeopardy! host and guest star on The Golden Girls, Alex Trebek, died this past weekend on November 8, 2020 of pancreatic cancer. Trebek appeared on the “Questions and Answers” episode in the seventh season, and I think it’s only fitting to take a moment to acknowledge him.

Alex Trebek served as the host of Jeopardy! for a record-setting 37 years and more than 8,000 episodes. He even joked earlier this year that his longtime friend, none other than Betty White, should be the next host of Jeopardy!. I love trivia and have enjoyed watching Jeopardy! since I was a kid. It’s one of those shows that has become a dependable comfort to many of us over the years, thanks in no small part to Trebek’s hosting abilities. You could always tell that he truly loved hosting the show. Former contestants’ memories of their time with him also prove that he enjoyed getting to know them as well, even if only for a brief moment.

Trebek and Betty White were also longtime friends since her late husband, Allen Ludden, was also a well-known game show host. Trebek even joked in a 2020 Good Morning America interview that she was his choice to replace him as the host of Jeopardy!.

Alex Trebek & Betty White in 1982

It’s strange to think of Jeopardy! going on without Alex Trebek. While his death wasn’t necessarily a surprise it still came as a shock because he’s been a daily presence in so many of our lives for all these years. I love that he has a direct connection to The Golden Girls, though, so let’s take a look at “Questions and Answers.”

Jeopardy! clues tend to foil even the biggest know-it-all, including Dorothy Zbornak. In this episode, Dorothy decides to apply to audition for the show when it comes to Miami, but not before Blanche overshares a little.

Dorothy: They’re taking applications beginning Monday morning. I’m going to be the first in line.

Blanche: Make that second.

Dorothy: What are you talking about, Blanche? You’ve never cared about Jeopardy.

Blanche: No, but I do care for Alex Trebek! See, I’ve never had a Canadian who wasn’t on skates.

Dorothy: I’m sorry. I didn’t know.

Blanche: I have this recurring fantasy. “Take me, Alex, take me now!” I tell him. Then he says to me, “Uh, uh, uh, Blanche! In the form of a question.”

Dorothy ends up spending so much time studying for her audition that she has a dream in which she competes on an episode of Jeopardy! against Rose and Charley Dietz from Empty Nest. This set up is an obvious one, but that’s part of what makes the episode so funny. Dorothy ends up losing to Rose because the Final Jeopardy! question wasn’t what she expected. It’s a scene that makes me laugh every time.

This episode has also received more attention in the past few years due to Dorothy calling Merv Griffin “the anti-Trump” in the clip above. Trebek’s sense of humor about himself and his role on the show is a treat, too. In the end, Dorothy doesn’t make it past the audition phase because she’s haughty and a little rude to the other two contestants. When she approaches the audition coordinator he tells her that “we don’t believe anyone would root for you.” Yes, it’s a moment of comeuppance for Dorothy, but it also reminds us that Alex Trebek’s likability was a big part of what’s made Jeopardy! so successful and watchable over the years. It hasn’t been simply questions and answers on just another game show but the opportunity to show that we can all learn a little more about the world around us and be gracious while doing so.

Alex Trebek’s last day of filming on Jeopardy! was, almost unbelievably, October 29th, and his final appearance as host will air on Christmas day. During this time I hope all the chatter and speculation about who will be the next host calms down so we can all enjoy the last of the new episodes with him. Last year Trebek remarked that he hoped he would be remembered “just as a good guy,” and in July he said he “want[s] to be considered as helpful and generous…and kind.” Alex Trebek will definitely be missed, but I’m glad that we have this connection to The Golden Girls to help us smile and remember his legacy.

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