Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek dies at 80, fans mourn an ‘icon’

Los Angeles – Alex Trebek, whose decades as host of the quiz show Jeopardy! made him one of the most popular fixtures on American television, died on Sunday at age 80.

Revealing in March 2019 his diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer, he continued taping his programme until recently.

His death was announced on Twitter by the Jeopardy! account, which said Trebek “passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends”, adding: “Thank you, Alex.” 

CNN media analyst Brian Stelter called Trebek “the greatest game show host of his generation... You always watched, and you came away smarter”. 

Even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his condolences for the family of the Canadian-born Trebek.

“We have lost an icon,” he said. “Almost every night for more than three decades, Alex Trebek entertained and educated millions around the world, instilling in so many of us a love for trivia.”

Trebek, who became a US citizen in 1998, had hosted Jeopardy! – syndicated these days to various channels including ABC – since 1984.

Bob Iger, the executive of ABC parent the Walt Disney Company, called Trebek “a friend, a colleague, an icon” in a statement mourning his death.

Trebek previously hosted other game shows, including Double Dare and Classic Concentration, as well as hosting the National Geographic Bee for 25 years.

But it was his time at Jeopardy! – a 36-year run almost unheard of by television standards – and his clear intelligence, gentlemanly aplomb and sly good humour that earned him the eternal devotion of millions of viewers.

He also won a slew of awards. Trebek was a five-time daytime Emmy Award winner and had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Sometimes two or even three generations of viewers would gather before televisions to watch him.

One contestant, Burt Thakur, grew tearful on a recently aired episode when he told Trebek how, as a small child in India, he watched the show on his grandfather’s lap.

“I realised English due to you. And so, my grandfather who raised me – I’m going to get tears proper now – I used to take a seat on his lap and watch you day by day.” 

Trebek received a flood of supportive mail after announcing his Stage 4 cancer.

“I’m going to fight this,” he told his fans. Many wrote to tell him they were inspired by his battle.

He had had earlier health scares, including two heart attacks and a bad auto accident, but always came back.

Trebek is survived by his wife Jean and their two adult children, Emily and Matthew. - AFP