Jeopardy! Executive Producer Previews Final Shows with Alex Trebek: He 'Was an Absolute Warrior'
The beloved late host's final episodes will begin airing on Monday
Beginning Monday, the long-running ABC game show will air its final episodes with Trebek as host. He finished taping the shows on Oct. 29 — just 10 days before he died at age 80 following a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Trebek's final string of episodes were originally set begin airing on Christmas Day, but were delayed "in order to give his millions of fans a chance to see his final appearances," the show said in a press release.
In an interview with Today on Monday, Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards reflected on Trebek's final days in the studio, calling the late host "an absolute warrior."
"What he was able to do by getting himself back to the set to tape those final episodes, and we didn't know it was going to be his final episodes and neither did he, but it was herculean," said Richards, 45.
Richards also said that while Trebek "was in enormous pain" during his final episodes, fans "will not sense any of that" when they tune in. "He is strong, he sounds great, he is funny and he's amazing," Richards said of Trebek.
Richards also discussed Trebek's decision to come back to the studio despite being in the hospital the week prior, saying, "I think there was a level of professionalism. He really understood the importance of the show and what it meant to people. He made being smart cool, and I think that was all of those things for him."
According to Richards, Trebek delivered an emotional monologue that led the entire crew to burst into applause on set.
"In this very special unbelievable final week, he comes out and gives a talk about the importance of togetherness and sticking together and that the world is struggling but that we have to get through it together," said Richards. "We had chills. 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."
Beginning Jan. 11, a rotation of familiar faces will take over Trebek's position for now, including champion Ken Jennings and other members of the Jeopardy! family.
And according to Richards, Trebek decided before his death to leave the decision of naming his permanent replacement in the show's hands.
"He had mentioned a couple of names but he wanted to stay out of that and he knew that we would do a good job looking for people and that we would find someone," Richards said. "No one was going to replace him and he knew that. As humble as he was, he knew there was no chance of that. And that it's someone smart and incredible that loves the show, that's what he wanted."
Jeopardy! airs weekdays (check local listings).