A Fascinating Look Back at How Alex Trebek Got Started on 'Jeopardy!'

The famous host has seen the show through so many changes.

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UPDATE, March 6, 2019: Alex Trebek revealed in on Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

"Just like 50,000 other people in the U.S. each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer," Alex remarked. "Now normally the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I'm going to fight this, and I'm going to keep working, and with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease. Truth told, I have to, because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years," he added. "So help me keep the faith, and we'll win. We'll get it done. Thank you."

ORIGINAL, July 30, 2018:

Recent news that sounded the alarm for avid fans everywhere. And we don't blame them: The game show host has been the face of the show for more than 33 years and in the business for more than 50. As a result of his long run on the popular syndicated show, 's net worth is around $50 million as of 2018, according to .

Alex Trebek's net worth is around $50 million as of 2018.

But long before he was a six-time Daytime Emmy winner and collected , Alex was just another young broadcaster trying to make it. To truly appreciate Alex's success, let's take a look back at a time when Jeopardy! wasn't yet one of America's all-time favorites and the host was still figuring out what he wanted to do and who he wanted to be.


From broadcasting to game show host

Born on July 22, 1940 in Ontario, Canada, his mother was French Canadian while his father was a Ukrainian immigrant who worked as a hotel chef. To help pay for his tuition at the University of Ottawa, Alex started working part-time at the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC). Clearly impressed with his talents, Alex was offered a full-time gig as a staff announcer after his graduation in 1961. There, he covered the news, weather, and regional sports on radio and television broadcasts.

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His soothing voice, relatable wit, and composed temperament continued to help him find a home on the national stage in the early 1960s. He was transferred to Toronto where he became a national announcer. Shortly after, Alex took an interest in game shows and got his start hosting special programs, including the teen show Music Hop, and the popular Canadian high school quiz show Reach for the Top.

By this time, Alex told the he had exhausted all of his opportunities at the CBC and was yearning for something more — perhaps a gig in the United States. But it wasn't until sitcom star and fellow Canadian Alan Thicke took a chance on Alex in the early 1970s that his career really took off. Alan tapped Alex to audition for a new game show which he was writing the theme song for called The Wizards of Odds. Lo and behold, Alex got the job and became the show's official host in 1973. To this day, Alex still attributes his success to the actor, telling that he "was the reason I got my big break."

After getting noticed on The Wizards of Odds (and introducing the world to what a serious mustache looks like), Alex continued to dabble in new hosting projects on more game shows in the late 1970s, including CBS's Double Dare, The $128,000 Question, and NBC's The New High Rollers.

Discovering Jeopardy!

It wasn't until 1983 that Alex was introduced to the trivia game show. Prior to Alex, Jeopardy! had a rather rocky history. The first version of the show began in 1964 and was created by game show legend Merv Griffin. The program ran for 11 years but was canceled in 1975 when NBC yearned to appeal to a younger demographic.

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The Jeopardy! Book
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It made a reboot in 1978, but was promptly canceled again only three months later. By the time Alex began hosting and producing the show in 1984, Jeopardy! was facing a long shot at success. CNN that the show was given "absurd" time slots and was pulled from several stations. Alex and producers were even pressured to make the questions easier so that viewers wouldn't feel bad, according to .

Over time though, Alex was able to make the show his own and was eventually awarded better air times. Just a few years later, Jeopardy! was being watched by more than 15 million people daily — a huge success for the network.

In addition to working on Jeopardy!, he began hosting other shows on NBC, including Classic Concentration from 1987-1991. In 1991, he became the first person to host three American game shows at the same time when he also took on a job for NBC's To Tell the Truth. But, of course, his stint on Jeopardy! is the one that stood the test of time and became his most notable role on TV.

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’Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek talks to three contenders who auditioned to be on the show in 1988.
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Becoming more than a TV host

The face of Jeopardy! became desirable for many guest appearance opportunities, including , , , , and . He also has made cameos in several feature films over the years, like and the .

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Throughout his hosting career, Alex also took on the role of husband and father. Just as his career was starting to blossom on Wizards of Odds, Alex married business woman Elaine Trebek Kares. The two eventually went their separate ways in the early 1980s and Alex re-married real estate project manager Jean Currivan Trebek in 1990. He and Jean have been married now for 28 years. The couple have two children together — Matthew, 28, and Emily, 25.

Looking to the future

Now 78 years old, the famed host told that the chances he'll stay on Jeopardy! after 2020 (when his contract is up) are "50/50 and a little less." Earlier this year, Alex took time off from the show to .

In terms of his replacement, he is hoping the host will be one of these two people: Alex Faust, a 28-year-old announcer for the LA Kings, or Laura Coates, a legal analyst on CNN.

Of course, whoever is selected for the role can never truly replace Alex. His wit, charm, and that iconic mustache will forever be a part of Jeopardy! and greater TV history.

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