Culture Crash 20-47

Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

At some point early on during our COVID-19 lockdown, my wife and I discovered that both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video had runs of Jeopardy! on their services, so it became something of a routine to finish up with work, watch an episode or two of Jeopardy! and then make dinner or move on with our night. It was such a fun way to come together, hang out and unwind. It is, in my opinion, the best trivia show to ever air and that is due in no small part to its longtime host, Alex Trebek, who died on November 8.

Trebek walked a fine line as host of Jeopardy!. He always maintained an air of seriousness, rarely making fun of the show, which he treated as a scholarly exercise. Still, he made it entertaining, occasionally poking fun at contestants or giving them a hard time during the show’s “get to know the contestants” segment.

Each episode of Jeopardy! moves at a brisk pace, taking up only 20 minutes or so when you remove the commercials. There just wasn’t much space for personality to seep out, and yet, slowly, viewers came to know and love Alex Trebek. He hosted the show for 36 years and of course became a television icon on the program. Regularly imitated on Saturday Night Live, celebrated by both his native Canada and the U.S., where he was a dual citizen.

When he announced his pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2019, the world rallied in support of him. Trebek got to say goodbye to his show and his viewers on his own terms, which is a rare luxury. Even rarer, Trebek has been a staple of the TV landscape for decades and there is not a hint of scandal associated with his name. Instead, Trebek is known for being intellectually curious and uncommonly kind. The perfect person for us to have invited into our homes for so long.

Alex Trebek was 80 years old.

I’m Evan Rook.