Trebek’s Appeal Endures

Feb 9, 2004  •  Post A Comment

“Shows like ours seem to be self-perpetuating, and I guess the host goes along with it,” said Alex Trebek, last year’s Daytime Emmy winner for outstanding game show host, who has been at the “Jeopardy!” podium for 20 years.
“To paraphrase what Mark Twain said makes something classic, people say they have seen our show even if they haven’t.”
Mr. Trebek, 63, has won three Emmys for hosting “Jeopardy!” and is always a contender. In a business that is said to worship youth, where performers, writers, directors and others can find themselves scrounging for work well before their AARP cards arrive unsolicited in the mail, game show hosts defy the pattern.
“A game show host is not just an announcer,” Mr. Trebek said. “The host is the director on the stage. The host has to have an eye for pacing, for keeping the game going. That’s a role that not only takes maturity, it is one that the audience perceives requires maturity. If there’s a reason why game show hosts are able to keep doing what we do after a white hair appears, that’s it.”
Mr. Trebek has been a mainstay of the game show world since he hosted “The Wizard of Odds” in 1973. Winning the Emmy, he said, is a matter of luck. “[The Emmy judges] sit in a room, watch tapes and then they vote. I believe that if we were told who got what number of votes it would always be a tight contest.”
Voters have responded in the past to Mr. Trebek’s deadpan delivery and businesslike demeanor and his intelligence, which makes him conversant on the broad range of information routinely dispensed on each program. But Mr. Trebek modestly credits his many past Emmy nominations to a numbers game.
“There aren’t that many game shows on the air,” he said. “In the days when there were 15 or 20 game shows there were just about that many hosts, and the awards would reflect a greater number of nominees.”
Mr. Trebek watches other game shows and has respect for the other hosts, he said, but when it comes to the nuances that make them good at what they do, he offered no opinion.
“There are only a few occasions when I have watched someone else and picked up something they do that’s particularly special,” he said.
“Mostly that revolves around how they go out to a commercial break. Saying `We’ll be right back’ can get tired. I have borrowed new ways of doing that from the others,” he said.
“What attracts me to game shows and perhaps why I have been able to hang around is that I like games and I like competition,” Mr. Trebek said.
“Every day the format is the same, but the audience watches because there are new clues, new contestants and Americans like the challenge themselves. Those are the same reasons it’s exciting for me to go out there every day.”