Trebek Remains Host as New "Jeopardy!" Season Approaches
- In a new video, Alex Trebek announced Ken Jennings will join “Jeopardy!” when the new season debuts September 14
- Trebek, who has stage 4 pancreatic cancer, has been beating the odds since his February 2019 diagnosis
- Fans worried that Jennings may be replacing Trebek got a decisive answer: ‘Don’t worry,” Trebek said, “I’ll still be the host”
Also new, “Greatest of All Time’ champion, Ken Jennings, will join as a consulting producer.
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“On a personal level, I’m excited because it gets me out of the house,” Trebek said in an announcement from Sony Pictures Television. “It gives me something to do on a regular basis, and I was missing that.”
Jennings: Trebek’s Successor?
The news sparked fan concern that Ken Jennings was being groomed as Trebek’s successor, according to the New York Post.
Jennings will “present his own special video categories, develop projects, assist with contestant outreach, and serve as a general ambassador for the show,” according to Sony.
But he won’t be calling the shots — or the clues. That honor remains Trebek’s: “Don’t worry,” he said, emphatically, “I’ll still be the host.”
“I’m A Bit Of An Anomaly”
Trebek’s current experimental immunotherapy treatment has been promising, the host explained in a July interview with GMA’s T.J. Holmes. “They do a blood test to see what my CA19 numbers are,” he told Holmes.
“And the CA 19 numbers are an indicator of how your pancreatic cancer is progressing,” Trebek noted. “Eight weeks ago, the numbers were at about 3,500, now they’re below 100. So I’m going in the right direction.”
Alex Trebek shared a positive health update in an ABC interview in July marking his 80th birthday and the publication of his memoir
When Holmes pressed him for details, Trebek added, “The doctors say they have never seen a chart like mine because there are peaks. I said, ‘What do you mean?'”
“They usually see [the numbers] going up,” he explained, “So I’m a bit of an anomaly,” he said, before conceding to Holmes, “I’m on the right track.”
Always open about the ups and downs of his treatment, Trebek reminded Holmes that, “there are good days and there are bad days, so I take into account the bad days, now the pessimist in me is coming out.”
“I Expect To Be Around”
When he announced he’d passed the one-year anniversary of his pancreatic diagnosis in March, Trebek revealed that he was beating the odds, given that the one-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 18%.
“My doctor has told me that he is counting on me celebrating 2 years of survivorship past the diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. And that two years happens in February.”
Dr. Anirban Maitra, co-leader of the Pancreatic Cancer Moon Shot at MD Anderson Cancer Center, on the importance of an early diagnosis.
Another reason he plans to be around, he hasn’t put his final plans in place. “I keep putting it off,” he admits to Holmes.
“I say ‘you’d better start getting your affairs in order’ I know exactly what I need to do, but I have yet to do it. So there is something in me that says, ‘whoa, hold on a little’.”
His Work Inspires His Life
Work fuels him, of course. After months under quarantine in his L.A. home, Trebek told ABC’s Holmes, “It sure as hell would be good to get back to work. I miss it. It’s been part of my life – a very important part of my life — for 36 years.”
But keeping up with the show’s fast-paced taping schedule — in an ordinary week, “Jeopardy!” tapes five episodes per day over two days — hasn’t always been easy for him. “I’ve observed morning meetings where he looks so exhausted and clearly in pain, and I think, we’re going to tape five shows in an hour and a half? There’s no way,” the show’s executive producer Mike Richards told the New York Times.
But when it’s showtime, he summons the energy, says Johnny Gilbert, 96, the show’s longtime announcer. “Once I introduce him on that stage, he is Alex Trebek,” said Gilbert, “you can tell that that’s what he’s living for.”
“I’m Just In Awe Of The Way She Handles It”
Trebek admitted that his ongoing treatment and bouts of pain often made him feel like a burden to his wife, Jean, 56. “Yeah, I’ve used that [word],” he told Holmes.
He got emotional as he talked about his wife of 30 years. “Jeanie asked me in the morning, ‘How do you feel?’ And I said, ‘I feel like I wanna die.’ It was that bad,” Trebek told Holmes. “I apologize to her and explain that it has nothing to do with my love for her or my feelings for her. It just has to do with the fact that I feel like I’m a terrible burden to her. And that bothers me tremendously.”
“She’s a saint,” Trebek said, clearly growing emotional. “She has so much goodness in her that she is always giving out, always putting out to help me get over difficult moments. And there have been some difficult moments”
“I’m just in awe,” he said, pausing to choke back tears, “of the way she handles it.”