Alex Trebek: Trivia celebrant

It was not a show about Trebek; the trivia spoke for itself.

Alex Trebek, host of the game show ‘Jeopardy!,’ poses with his Emmy Award at the 33rd annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Hollywood in 2006.  (photo credit: FRED PROUSER/REUTERS)
Alex Trebek, host of the game show ‘Jeopardy!,’ poses with his Emmy Award at the 33rd annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Hollywood in 2006.
(photo credit: FRED PROUSER/REUTERS)
Fifteen years ago, I took my tween daughter to the Sony/Columbia Studios Jeopardy! set while the game show was on summer recess. When the studio guide asked our group whether any of us knew where Alex Trebek came from, I emitted “Sudbury, Canada.”
The guide responded in admiration that nobody has ever known that before. My daughter was impressed with me for that one. (Of course, in Jeopardy! fashion I could have responded, “What is Sudbury, Canada?” but my daughter would not have understood and thought me embarrassing, as per normal.)
Trebek appeared on the scene of our Canadian boomer lives as a host of kids’ programming with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Even to us children, he appeared always dignified, the ever steady pro, cheerfully well-meaning.
Trebek was from a Northern Ontario mining town. Bilingual, he studied philosophy at the University of Ottawa, and as a young man he dedicated himself to being a quality journalist. He hosted Music Hop and a high school team trivia quiz program, Reach for the Top, on which my contestant friend Andy became something of a Toronto teen celebrity.
Knowing trivia is the hallmark not of a nerd but of someone who takes a keen interest in the world we live in and loves almost everything about it. Trivia is not trivial. Trebek always kept the game of Jeopardy! interesting because the game is interesting.
He knew trivia is real and appealing. (Trivial Pursuit, the international blockbuster game, was created in Canada, producing wealth for its Canadian creators, going on to many international editions.)
Trebek was a paragon of dignity, courtesy, playfulness and courage, as we would discover through his recent illness which took his life. He made a simple low-budget show popular for 36 years, keeping it moving in his erudite, steady way. He connected quickly with the contestants he loved. There was not a feeling of competition, more a celebration of trivia, of observing and knowing our world.
It was not a show about Trebek; the trivia spoke for itself. The show was about Joe Schmoe the contestant and for Joe Schmoe in the audience, average people, average information about rivers and poems and cooking and peace treaties.
More than one wedding resulted between contestants over the run of the show, and Trebek reveled in the role of shadchan. I Imagined the couple saying during vows, “I’ll take marriage for $300.”
The show has a second life in an ongoing affectionate sharp parody on Saturday Night Live – also a show of Canadian sensibilities, founded and run by Canadians, but not the dignified sensibilities of Trebek.
He will continue to appear in some taped shows yet to be broadcast, his Final Jeopardy. Alex Trebek’s memory is a blessing.

The writer is a blockchain technology and financial services lawyer living in Jerusalem.