Entertainment

‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek sends message to fans in final week

Alex Trebek delivered a powerful message about togetherness and giving on Monday night’s “Jeopardy!” — one of the last episodes the beloved host recorded before he died at age 80 on November 8 following a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“You’ll recall that about a month ago, I asked all of you to take a moment to give thanks for all of the blessings that you enjoy in your lives,” he said. “Now, today, a different kind of message. This is the season of giving. I know you want to be generous with your family, your friends, your loved ones.”

He continued on with a challenge for fans who have watched his show for over 8,2000 episodes.

“But today, I’d like you to go one step further. I’d like you to open up your hands and open up your hearts to those who are still suffering because of COVID-19. People who are suffering through no fault of their own,” he said. “We’re trying to build a gentler, kinder society and if we all pitch in — just a little bit — we’re gonna get there.”

The episode, which was filmed in October, ends with a dedication to Trebek reading: “Forever in our hearts, always our inspiration.”

His final episode, slated to air Friday, will include “a special tribute to the life and work of the man who captained America’s Favorite Quiz Show with skill, style, and sophistication for 36+ years,” according to a statement from “Jeopardy!” producer Sony Pictures Television. The last week of episodes was scheduled to air during the week of Christmas, but Sony pushed them back, so fans could enjoy their final moments with Trebek.

Alex Trebek on the Jan. 4, 2021 episode of “Jeopardy!”Twitter/Jeopardy

Mike Richards, the game show’s executive producer, said on NBC’s “Today” that the monologue viewers watched Monday night gave the crew chills — and they immediately erupted into applause.

“In this very special, unbelievable final week, he comes out and gives a talk about the importance of togetherness and sticking together and that the world is struggling but that we have to get through it together,” said Richards. “We had chills. There are specific moments in ‘Jeopardy!’ when you clap, and then there are moments when you are quiet. There’s not that many people in the studio because of COVID, and we all burst into applause. We were so moved that we had to applaud.”

Richards also revealed that Trebek, who first announced his cancer diagnosis in March 2019, was hospitalized the week before the last batch of episodes were filmed. The Canadian host’s last day of filming was October 29, 2020.

“He was an absolute warrior,” Richards told “Today.” “And what he was able to do by getting himself back to the set to tape those final episodes … it was Herculean. He was in enormous pain, he was 10 days away from passing away, and you will not sense any of that in these episodes.”

Trebek, who is survived by wife, Jean Currivan Trebek, and two children, also insisted that the final week of tapings not be canceled, Richards said, despite his hospitalization.

“He calls me and he says, ‘Mike, I’m going to be fine. I’ll be in to tape. I was able to eat Jell-O today,’” Richards recalled. “And I went, ‘Alex, that’s great, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be ready to host five episodes of a game show, which is an enormous amount of effort.’ And he said, ‘Do not cancel. I will be there.’ ”

So far, “Jeopardy!” has not yet announced who will take over the long-running game show host’s position — although some names have been floated, including the likes of George Stephanopoulos. However, there will be several interim hosts that will be familiar to “Jeopardy!” fans, including champ Ken Jennings, who recently apologized preemptively for past “insensitive” tweets — which many believe to be him clearing his name before taking over officially.

As for Trebek, Richards said he did offer some suggestions but shied away from giving an all-out recommendation, instead opting for Sony Pictures Television to make the final choice.

“He had mentioned a couple of names, but he wanted to stay out of that, and he knew that we would do a good job looking for people and that we would find someone,” Richards said. “No one was going to replace him and he knew that. As humble as he was, he knew there was no chance of that. And that it’s someone smart and incredible that loves the show, that’s what he wanted.”

Back in January 2020, Trebek said he would need but a mere 30 seconds to give his final sign-off message to fans, who have watched him grace the screen as a calming but witty force on the fast-paced game show since 1984.

“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,’ ” he said. “And until we meet again, God bless you and goodbye.”