A farewell to television’s trivia titan


Connor Niszczak

Alex Trebek’s Funko Pop, along with his touching 2020 memoir.

I don’t even know where to begin. It feels like I just lost a dear family member. A best friend. My television hero.

I still am not fully processing the tragic news of the passing of Alex Trebek. I can’t grasp the idea that someday soon, I am not going to be able to sit down at 7 p.m. and feel his warmth radiating into my living room. Someday soon, he will never again say “we hope you’ll join us tomorrow.” I know that I haven’t actually been watching Jeopardy! my whole life, but it is such an intrinsic element of American culture that I truly do not remember any point in my life when Alex wasn’t a part of it.

Trebek is one of the few pop culture icons that is known and adored by all generations. Babies are hypnotized by that unmistakable theme music (which I know you’re now humming), teenagers like me feel like Einstein when we know both the periodic table and Grey’s Anatomy stars in the same half hour, and older folks are comforted by Trebek’s daily wit and charm, which they’ve come to know over the past 37 years of Jeopardy!

Trebek’s comforting nature has become more valuable than ever in 2020; no matter the uncertainty around COVID-19, the presidential election, and nationwide protests, Trebek was there. Every night. Just like always. 7-7:30 each night is an escape from the Twitterverse, CNN, and all other headlines, into a world of ‘European History’, ‘Pots and Pans’, ‘French Poets’, and ‘New York Times Headlines.’ As Ken Jennings tweeted after Trebek announced his pancreatic cancer diagnosis in March 2019, “I’ve said this before but Alex Trebek is in a way the last Cronkite: authoritative, reassuring TV voice you hear every night, almost to the point of ritual.”

In a New York Times article about Trebek last July, Alexandra Alter described Trebek as ‘something timeless.’ 

“In an entertainment and media ecosystem that often feels ephemeral, vapid and divorced from reality, Trebek represents something timeless. With his cerebral bearing and aura of quiet, impartial authority, he embodies ideals that feel endangered: the pursuit of knowledge, and the inherent value of facts. He is a game show host and a smooth-talking, quick-witted entertainer, yes, but he’s also, in a way, an arbiter of truth,” Alter wrote.

Alex Trebek is the greatest game show host of all time. He made me, and the world, smarter and better people. His death is an indescribable loss for the world and future generations. My reflections are brief because I struggle to put into words the impact that Alex Trebek has had on me and the world. I am honored to have gotten so many half hours with him, and am grateful for everything he has taught me.