“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek announced on a YouTube video posted Wednesday afternoon that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
In the short video, Trebek, 78, said he had learned earlier this week of his diagnosis, then said: “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.”
Trebek, who has hosted “Jeopardy!” since 1984 and is one of television's best-known personalities, has only rarely missed hosting the show over health issues.
Sony Pictures Television announced in November that Trebek had signed a two-year extension as the show's host, through 2022. In addition, Sony handed two-year extensions through 2022 to "Wheel of Fortune" stars Vanna White, 61, and Pat Sajak, 72.
During a TV interview in July, Trebek had hinted that he might retire in 2020, saying "the odds are 50/50 and a little less" that he might leave when his contract expired. Trebek then offered suggestions for replacements — Alex Faust, a Los Angeles sports anchor, or CNN legal analyst Laura Coates. He was treated for a subdural hematoma in December, caused by a fall a couple months earlier, and was off the air for a period of time.
Trebek launched his TV career in his native Canada in the early '60s, moving to the United States in 1973, when he joined NBC as a game show host. He was named host of the relaunched version of “Jeopardy!” a little over 10 years later.
Art Fleming, from 1964 to 1979, was the original host of "Jeopardy!" But it was Trebek who was to become the face of “Jeopardy!,” the face of game shows and — to an extent — the face of American TV, too. He remains one of those rare personalities — Oprah Winfrey is another — deemed irreplaceable to the franchise with which he has so long been associated.
Part of the reason has been Trebek’s durability, the other, his personality — a steadfast calm and unflappable demeanor, with a bone-dry sense of humor. When he entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2014 for most game-show episodes ever presented by a single host — 6,829 — he joked that “the good news is, as long as I keep hosting the program, I stay ahead of whoever’s in second place and that makes me feel good.”