Just this past summer, the Television Critics Association bestowed our Heritage Award on Trebek. Sick as he was, he taped a thank you from the set. It’s pure Trebek, all about sharing the spotlight with others

You never want to be caught without your laptop or even an iPad when somebody as special as Alex Trebek dies.

I was crossing up Hwy 6, headed to close a cottage on the Bruce Peninsula, when my phone lit up with messages from Murtz Jaffer. The CTV News Channel producer was calling with the sad news of Trebek’s passing. Could I appear live now on the news channel with a response?

I pulled over and searched for the Skype app on my Pixel phone. We figured it out. The stories came easily. I had the good fortune to interview Trebek over the years, going way back to my start at TV Guide and his on Jeopardy!

I choked up a little, however, as I spoke of Trebek’s brave last year-and-a-half and was surprised at how emotional this report was for me. Coming a day after Joe Biden’s verification as president elect, it did seem to cut short the joy a sunny, warm November day was bringing to Ontario’s farm country.

Trebek’s death, however, hit a lot of us like a death in the family. He was a constant on Jeopardy for 36 years, and a familiar face in Canada for well over a decade before that.

What I discovered every time was how much fun he was to interview. Always classy and generous, he showed a playfulness one-on-one you didn’t expect from his usual quizmaster demeanor. He looked you in the eye, referred to you by name, all those old school tropes. I think he also knew how fortunate he was, and how pleased this made fellow Canadians.

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Still driving, my next call came from an editor at The Toronto Star: could I quickly write a tribute for the paper? I could and did, reaching the cottage an hour later and pecking out words and letters on a phone screen that kept changing to something I didn’t write as soon as I typed them (as they are now). You can read that story here.

I feel humbled to be asked to do this. Trebek was the best example of a wonderful life in the TV business. That his victory lap came with such pain, and also dignity, speaks to his character. Here was a man enduring chemo and radiation and dragging himself to Sony Studios through a pandemic! He taped so many episodes his run on Jeopardy will continue through Christmas.

His commitment to be a symbol of hope for other cancer patients was heroic. His professionalism and good nature was widely admired. Condolences to his family and friends, and everyone in Sudbury.

2 Comments

  1. Chris McKillop Reply

    And you can imagine how surprised I was to see the Star run the photo of him with me and other Jeopardy! wannabes at the first Toronto contestant search with your piece. Having gone on to appear and win on the show, I can see he was great a guy IRL as on TV.

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