'Jeopardy!': Alex Trebek Had a Goodbye Video Planned That He Never Got To Record

Alex Trebek’s last episode of Jeopardy! aired on Jan. 8. The beloved host died of pancreatic cancer on Nov. 8, 2020, and his last episode featured a touching tribute video from the show.

Before his death, but after he shared his cancer diagnosis, Trebek imagined he might retire from the show. Whether he retired or not, he had planned on recording a 30-second farewell message to viewers before his departure. But he never had the chance to record it.

Alex Trebek’s last day of filming ‘Jeopardy!’ was Oct. 29

Trebek hosted the fan favorite game show for 36 years. The Canadian-born host won a slew of Emmys during his tenure as host, and he left a lasting legacy. The star was diagnosed was stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March 2019 was open about his health with his fans while receiving treatment.

He was hopeful when giving a one-year update about his treatments to fans in March 2020, saying that he was happy to be part of the 18 percent of stage 4 pancreatic cancer patients who make it to that milestone.

Trebek continued filming episodes of the game show until he physically couldn’t anymore. His last day of filming was Oct. 29, although he and the crew did not know it then. In an interview with Today following his death, Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards said watching Trebek work through immense physical pain that day was inspiring.

“[Alex] didn’t enjoy being overly complimented or fawned over,” the executive producer shared. “He was Alex Trebek and he didn’t suffer that kind of ‘bloviating,’ as he would describe it.”

“But on what ended up being our final day taping, I knew he was in an enormous amount of pain,” Richards continued. “As he was leaving, I saw him at the door and I said, ‘You know, that was maybe the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.’ He kind of had his head down, and he looked up and said, ‘Thank you.’”

Alex Trebek wanted to record a 30-second farewell

Despite the pain he was in, Trebek still made sure to take a moment to inspire Jeopardy! viewers who were struggling to get by during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. That video ended up being one of his final messages of hope to his fans, as opposed to the short goodbye he wanted to make.

In a January 2020 interview with Michael Strahan, Trebek (who was joined by his wife, Jean Trebek) described his ideal final Jeopardy! moment.

“What I would do on that day is tell the director, ‘Time the show down to leave me 30 seconds at the end. That’s all I want,’” he said. “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. And until we meet again, God bless you and goodbye.’”

Alex Trebek gave an impromptu speech about COVID-19 during his last week of filming

Instead, his speech about COVID-19 ended up being one of his farewells. And it was a fitting message.

“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 in the Jan. 4 episode. “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.”

“But today, I’d like you to go one step further,” Trebek continued. “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. We’re trying to build a gentler, kinder society, and if we all pitch in—just a little bit—we’re gonna get there.”

Richards told Today that the speech was unprompted, and it drew applause from the Jeopardy! crew.

“We had chills,” he said. “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.”

Ken Jennings is the current interim host of Jeopardy!. A permanent replacement has not yet been selected.

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