Transcript: Alex Trebek and the Legacy of 'Jeopardy!' | Jan 04, 2021

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, blue shirt, and striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Alex Trebek and the legacy of 'Jeopardy.' @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says SINCE 1984, SUDBURY, ONTARIO'S OWN ALEX TREBEK HOSTED THE GAME SHOW JEOPARDY! HIS DEATH LAST NOVEMBER IS CERTAINLY THE END OF AN ERA. BUT AS THE ICONIC QUIZ SHOW LOOKS FOR ITS NEXT CHAPTER, A NEW BOOK CHRONICLES ITS STORY SO FAR. IT'S CALLED "ANSWERS IN THE FORM OF QUESTIONS: A DEFINITIVE HISTORY AND INSIDER'S GUIDE TO JEOPARDY!" IT'S WRITTEN BY CLAIRE McNEAR, WHO IS ALSO A STAFF WRITER FOR THE RINGER, A SPORTS AND POP CULTURE WEBSITE AND PODCAST NETWORK. AND IT BRINGS CLAIRE McNEAR TO OUR VIRTUAL STUDIO TONIGHT FROM WASHINGTON, DC.

Claire is in her thirties, with long wavy blond hair. She's wearing a black sweater.
A picture of her book appears briefly on screen. The cover is blue and features a picture of the classic Jeopardy lecterns.

Steve continues CLAIRE, IT'S SO NICE TO MEET YOU, EVEN IF ONLY VIRTUALLY. CONGRATULATIONS ON THE BOOK. I DO WANT TO START WITH A, YOU KNOW, A BIT OF A SAD QUESTION, WHICH IS HOW BITTERSWEET WAS IT FOR YOU TO HAVE A BOOK THAT YOU WORKED SO HARD ON COME OUT THE SAME WEEK THAT THE WORLD LOST ALEX TREBEK?

The caption changes to "Claire McNear. Author, 'Answers in the form of questions.'"
Then, it changes again to "And now, here is the host..."

Claire says YEAH, ABSOLUTELY. IT WAS PROFOUNDLY BITTERSWEET. I HAD THE GREAT JOY OF SPENDING A LOT OF THIS YEAR THINKING ABOUT JEOPARDY! AND THINKING ABOUT ALEX TREBEK AND IT REALLY FELT LIKE A PERSONAL LOSS IN A WAY. BUT I HAD THE HONOUR OF GETTING TO KNOW HIM A LITTLE BIT AND SPEAK WITH HIM FOR THIS BOOK, SO I'M GRATEFUL THAT I GOT THAT TIME.

Steve says IF I'VE HEARD THIS QUESTION ONCE, I'VE HEARD IT DOZENS OF TIMES, WHICH IS HOW IN HEAVEN'S NAME DID HE BATTLE PANCREATIC CANCER AND TAPE SHOWS RIGHT UP TO THE END? HOW DID HE DO THAT?

Claire says IT'S AMAZING. TALKING TO THE STAFF MEMBERS AT JEOPARDY!, THEY HONESTLY HAD THE SAME QUESTION. BETWEEN TAPINGS, A TYPICAL DAY AT JEOPARDY! THEY TAPED FIVE GAMES BACK TO BACK TO BACK TO BACK. BETWEEN GAMES, HE WAS KIND OF IN THE MIDST OF THIS BATTLE WITH CANCER, HE WOULD GO BACK TO HIS DRESSING ROOM AND HE SPOKE ABOUT HAVING TO CURL UP ON THE FLOOR WEEPING FROM THE PAIN. HE WOULD COME IN DAYS AFTER HE HAD HAD SURGERY IN THE MIDST OF CHEMO. BUT HE CAME ALIVE ONCE HE WAS ON THE JEOPARDY! STAGE, AND HE SAID THAT THAT WAS THE PLACE THAT HE REALLY FELT LIKE HIMSELF EVEN AS HE WAS IN THE MIDST OF ALL OF THIS.

Steve says IT'S AN INTERESTING INSIGHT INTO HIS PERSONALITY, THAT EVEN THOUGH HE KNEW HE HAD SO FEW DAYS LEFT ON EARTH, THAT'S WHAT HE WANTED TO DO WITH HIS TIME. WHAT DO YOU THINK IT SAYS ABOUT HIM?

The caption changes to "Claire McNear. The ringer."

Claire says IT SPEAKS SO MUCH TO HIS CHARACTER. HIS LAST TIME IN STUDIO WAS JUST A WEEK AND A HALF BEFORE HE PASSED AWAY. I HEARD A LOT OF OLD INTERVIEWS WITH TREBEK AND EARLY ON HE JOKED, I CAN'T WAIT TO BE RETIRED, I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS FOREVER, BUT HE JUST LOVED THAT SHOW AND HE LOVED THE STAFF AND HE LOVED MAKING THAT SHOW. AND IT MEANT SO MUCH TO HIM, AND I THINK IT WAS JUST A JOY, IT WAS A JOYFUL THING FOR HIM.

Steve says WE DO WANT TO SHOW A CLIP HERE. THIS... WELL, I WON'T SET IT UP. LET'S JUST SAY IT'S FINAL JEOPARDY! HERE IS A CONTESTANT NAMED DREW AND HE GAVE THIS AS HIS FINAL ANSWER. SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD?

A clip plays on screen with the caption "Jeopardy."
In the clip, a young dark-haired man in a gray shirt stands behind a Jeopardy lectern that reads "2000 dollars."

Alex Trebek says DREW, YOU'RE SMILING. I LIKE THAT. LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR RESPONSE. DID YOU COME UP WITH THE RIGHT ONE? YOU WROTE...

A picture pops up on screen showing a handwritten message that reads "We heart you Alex."

With a breaking voice, Alex says WHAT IS WE LOVE YOU, ALEX. IT COST YOU. YOU'RE LEFT WITH FIVE BUCKS. OKAY.

The clip ends.

Steve says YOU KNOW, FOR A GUY WHO WAS REALLY VERY, HOW DO WE WANT TO SAY IT, HE WAS PRETTY ICY THROUGHOUT MUCH OF HIS TIME AT JEOPARDY!, RIGHT? THAT WAS A MOMENT. THAT WAS A MOMENT. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THAT?

Claire says ABSOLUTELY. I MEAN, I'M FINDING MYSELF TEARING UP EVEN HAVING WATCHED THAT A MILLION TIMES. I THINK... OF COURSE, SEEING SOMEBODY LIKE ALEX TREBEK CHOKE UP ON STAGE IS A HUGE MOMENT, BUT I THINK FOR FANS OF JEOPARDY!, IT IS THIS AMAZING SHOW WHERE PEOPLE GROW UP WITH IT AND, YOU KNOW, IT'S IN YOUR HOME FIVE NIGHTS A WEEK YEAR AFTER YEAR, AND HE REALLY BEGINS TO FEEL LIKE A MEMBER OF THE FAMILY. SO I THINK THAT WAS JUST SUCH A MOMENT FOR JEOPARDY! FANS BECAUSE THERE IS THAT FEELING OF LOVE AND WARMTH TOWARDS HIM.

Steve says YEAH, WHEN I SAY "ICY," I GUESS I MEAN HE REALLY PLAYED IT STRAIGHT AND STRAIGHT AHEAD AND VERY BUSINESS-LIKE. OCCASIONALLY CHEEKY. OCCASIONALLY SNIPPY, WHEN HE THOUGHT YOU WERE, YOU KNOW, REALLY DUMB AND MISSING A QUESTION OR FORGETTING TO PUT IT IN THE FORM OF A QUESTION, IF I CAN RIP OFF THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK. WHAT WAS HE LIKE WHEN YOU INTERVIEWED HIM?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Claire says I REMEMBER GOING INTO MY FIRST INTERVIEW WITH HIM IN HIS DRESSING ROOM, THIS WAS EARLY 2019. I WAS REALLY AFRAID. IF I MISPRONOUNCED SOMETHING, WOULD HE CORRECT ME OR BE DISAPPOINTED IN ME BECAUSE HE IS THIS AUTHORITATIVE FIGURE IF YOU HAD GROWN UP WITH JEOPARDY!. BUT HE WAS SO WARM AND HE WAS SO FUNNY. HE WAS MUCH LOOSER WHEN HE WAS OFF-CAMERA AND HE WOULD SWEAR AND HE WOULD TALK ABOUT DRINKING AND HE KNEW THAT PEOPLE KIND OF WERE SURPRISED BY THIS SIDE OF HIM OR WHEN HE CHANGED INTO HIS T-SHIRT AND JEANS AND GOT INTO HIS PICKUP TRUCK TO DRIVE HOME, HE WAS JUST SUCH A GENUINE PERSON. BUT HE ALSO WAS THIS CHARACTER HE PLAYED ON STAGE. ONE OF MY FAVOURITE DISCOVERIES FROM WRITING THE BOOK IS FROM TALKING TO A LOT OF CONTESTANTS AND WHILE YOU WATCH AN EPISODE OF JEOPARDY!, YOU CAN OFTEN SEE TREBEK GO OVER TO CONTESTANTS AT THE END OF AN EPISODE AND SHAKE THE CHAMPION'S HAND BUT YOU CAN'T HEAR WHAT HE'S SAYING. MORE OFTEN THAN NOT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE FINAL JEOPARDY! CLUE. HE WANTED TO KNOW IF THEY WERE GUESSING, IF THEY KNEW IT, HOW DID THEY NOT KNOW IT, AND FOR THE HEART BROKEN PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T GET IT, HE WAS LIKE A GRANDFATHER SAYING, OH, C'MON, YOU KNEW THAT. IT WAS VERY SWEET. HE DID CARE ABOUT THIS TARIFF AND HE THOUGHT IT WAS IMPORTANT TO KNOWS THESE THINGS.

Steve says I WATCHED A LOT OF JOHNNY CARSON WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE AND I ALWAYS ASKED MYSELF HOW DOES A GUY FROM THE PLAINS OF NEBRASKA TURN INTO THE BIGGEST SENSATION IN LATE NIGHT TELL TRADITION EVER. AND I KNOW... TELEVISION EVER. I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE FROM THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO ARE PROBABLY ASKING THE SAME THING ABOUT ALEX. HOW DOES A GUY FROM SUDBURY, ONTARIO, GET TO BE THE HOST OF THE BIGGEST NAMED QUIZ SHOW IN HISTORY? HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?

Claire says THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION. AND, YOU KNOW, TREBEK WAS VERY, VERY HUMBLE, AND HE REALLY DESCRIBED HIS LIFE AND HIS SUCCESS AS JUST A SERIES OF LUCKY BREAKS. I DON'T THINK ANYBODY WHO HAS EVER WATCHED HIM ON TV WOULD BELIEVE THAT, BUT, YOU KNOW, HE SAID IT WAS BECAUSE HE WAS BILINGUAL AND HE SPOKE FRENCH THAT HE GOT PROMOTED UP THROUGH THE CBC WHICH OF COURSE LED TO EVENTUALLY THIS GAME SHOW CAREER DOWN IN LOS ANGELES. BUT HE FAMOUSLY JUST WORKED VERY HARD. WHEN YOU WATCH JEOPARDY!, IT ALMOST LOOKS EASY WHAT HE IS DOING. OF COURSE WE LOVED HIS FANCY PRONUNCIATION OF THINGS BUT IT WAS SO GOOD AND THE PRONUNCIATIONS WERE SO GOOD BECAUSE HE WOULD SHOW UP AT THE STUDIO AT 6 A.M., SIT DOWN WITH THE DAY'S MATERIAL, CRACK UP A DICTIONARY, MAKE DIACRITICAL MARKS... CRITICAL MARKS. EVERY DAY HE WORKED ON JEOPARDY!, HE WORKED HARD ON IT. HE WAS HUMBLE ABOUT IT BUT HE WAS THERE BECAUSE HE WAS GOOD AT IT AND REALLY PUT IN THE TIME.

Steve says IN THAT CASE, HOW MUCH OF THE SHOW'S SUCCESS IS HIM AND HOW MUCH OF THE SHOW'S SUCCESS IS THE FACT THAT IT'S A FASCINATING SHOW AND OF COURSE IT IS THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF EVERY OTHER PROGRAM ON TELEVISION INASMUCH AS, YOU KNOW, THEY GIVE YOU THE ANSWERS, YOU'VE GOT TO COME UP WITH THE QUESTION. FORMAT VERSUS HOST, WHERE DO YOU COME DOWN?

Claire says YEAH, HE WAS THE FIRST TO SAY THAT JEOPARDY! WOULD GO ON LONG AFTER HIM AND THAT THE GAME ITSELF IS KIND OF THE MAIN ATTRACTION THERE. OF COURSE, THE STAFF IS SO GOOD AND THE WRITERS ARE SO GOOD THAT THAT'S NOT GOING TO CHANGE. AND I DO BELIEVE THAT. I DO BELIEVE THAT JEOPARDY! ITSELF IS A REALLY GREAT GAME AND OF COURSE WE SEE THAT IN THAT THERE WAS A VERSION OF JEOPARDY! BEFORE ALEX TREBEK WITH ART FLEMING AND THAT WAS ALSO VERY POPULAR EVEN THOUGH IT WAS A KIND OF DIFFERENT SORT OF JEOPARDY!. BUT OF COURSE IT'S SO HARD TO IMAGINE JEOPARDY! WITHOUT ALEX TREBEK, AND IT'S INTENSELY BITTERSWEET AND, I MEAN, I KNOW THERE'S A LOT OF ANXIETY AMONGST FANS AND DOUBTS ABOUT THE SHOW, WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE ONCE HE'S NO LONGER THE HOST?

Steve says WELL, AS THERE SHOULD BE. LET'S FACE IT, THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT 6 ATTEMPTS AT SPIN-OFFS OF JEOPARDY!. I HADN'T HEARD OF MOST OF THEM FRANKLY UNTIL I READ YOUR BOOK AND THEY ALL FAILED. HE MAY BE THE SECRET SAUCE IN ALL OF THIS, EH?

Claire says TO SOME DEGREE, I THINK THAT'S DEFINITELY TRUE, AND I THINK IT WILL BE REALLY HARD NOT TO COMPARE WHOEVER THE NEXT HOST IS WITH HIM, BUT THE ACTUAL FORMULA OF JEOPARDY! IS SO STRONG AND ALSO I THINK THERE'S AN ELEMENT OF THE FACT THAT TREBEK HIMSELF WAS NOT A SUPERSTAR WHEN HE TOOK OVER JEOPARDY!. HE WAS CERTAINLY NOT ANONYMOUS IN CANADA OR IN THE U.S. BUT HE WAS NOT THE KIND OF STAR CELEBRITY HIRING THAT OF COURSE JEOPARDY! WAS GOING TO BE THE SMASH HIT WITH HIM AND HE KIND OF BECAME THAT WITH JEOPARDY! SO THAT GIVES ME A LITTLE BIT OF CONFIDENCE IN WHAT THE FUTURE MIGHT HOLD.

Steve says CLAIRE, I'VE GOT TO ASK YOU TWO VERY BIZARRE QUESTIONS HERE: WHAT DID ALEX DIE FROM?

Claire says HE PASSED AWAY FROM COMPLICATIONS OF PANCREATIC CANCER.

Steve says WHAT ABOUT ART FLEMING DIE FROM?

Claire says ALSO PANCREATIC CANCER.

Steve says GOT THE DIAGNOSIS AND WAS DEAD TWO WEEKS LATER. HOW BIZARRE IS THAT?

Claire says YEAH, I MEAN, IT'S A MONSTER OF A DISEASE, AND I THINK THAT TREBEK ABSOLUTELY KNEW THAT. HE KIND OF JOKED ABOUT IT. HE HAD THIS TREMENDOUS SARCASTIC SENSE OF HUMOUR, THIS SELF-DEPRECATING SENSE OF HUMOUR, AND HE KNEW THE ODDS HE WAS UP AGAINST BECAUSE OF COURSE HE KNEW ART FLEMING AND HE KNEW WHAT HAD HAPPENED, AND HE FOUGHT TILL THE END. AND I THINK THAT HE... EVEN AS HE STRUGGLED, I THINK HE KNEW THAT BY BEING PUBLIC ABOUT HIS FIGHT WITH CANCER, A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO HAD GONE THROUGH THINGS SIMILAR TOOK COMFORT IN THAT.

Steve says LET ME TAKE YOU BACK TO THE MID 1980s, BECAUSE OF COURSE ART FLEMING STARTED THE SHOW. IT HAD A RUN, IT GOT CANCELLED, I THINK THEY BROUGHT IT BACK FOR A YEAR, AND THEN THERE WAS NO JEOPARDY! FOR A WHILE. THEY THEN RESURRECTED IT IN THE MID 1980s WITH ALEX TREBEK. WHAT WAS THE THINKING BEHIND RESURRECTING A SHOW THAT HAD ALREADY BEEN CANCELLED?

The caption changes to "Quiz show."

Claire says YEAH, I MEAN, THE CANCELLATION WAS A FUNNY THING WHERE THEY TRIED A DIFFERENT TIME SLOT WITH ART FLEMING VERSION AND IT DIDN'T REALLY WORK. THERE WERE A FEW THINGS KIND OF COMPOUNDING THAT HAPPENING. BUT WITH JEOPARDY!, WHEN IT CAME BACK IN 1984, TRIVIAL PURSUIT HAD LAUNCHED A COUPLE OF YEARS EARLIER AND HAD BECOME THIS KIND OF CRAZE THROUGHOUT THE U.S., THROUGHOUT NORTH AMERICA, I THINK, AND THERE REALLY WAS THIS MOMENT OF TRIVIA OBSESSION. SO MERV GRIFFIN, THE CREATOR OF JEOPARDY!, HAD WHEEL OF FORTUNE ON THE AIR AND WAS LOOKING TO EXPERIMENT WITH SYNDICATION AND DECIDED, WELL, YOU KNOW, LET'S TRY BRINGING BACK JEOPARDY! AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

Steve says I ALWAYS THOUGHT MERV GRIFFIN WAS THE MOST BRILLIANT GUY IN THE WORLD BUT HIS WIFE CAME UP WITH THE IDEA OF GIVING THE ANSWERS AND YOU COME UP WITH THE QUESTIONS. THAT WAS BRILLIANT. IS THAT KNOWN? BECAUSE I HAD NEVER HEARD THAT BEFORE.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Claire says YEAH, IT'S BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT A LITTLE BIT BUT SHE WAS THE ONE WHO GAME UP WITH THIS INGENIOUS FORMULA, AND I HAVE WONDERED OFTEN IF JEOPARDY! WOULD BE AS POPULAR AS IT IS IF YOU DIDN'T HAVE THAT SILLY WHAT IS/WHO IS GIMMICK, AND IT IS A GIMMICK. BUT THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT IT THAT IF YOU WERE JUST SAYING THE ANSWERS OR THE QUESTIONS, RATHER, NOT AS QUESTIONS, IT DOESN'T REALLY HAVE THAT KIND OF STICKY STAYING POWER. SO I THINK THAT HAS SO MUCH TO DO WITH THE SUCCESS OF THE SHOW.

Steve says NOT EVERYBODY WATCHING THIS RIGHT NOW IS GOING TO REMEMBER WEIRD AL YANKOVIC. YOU HAVE TO BE IN A CERTAIN GENERATION. BUT WEIRD AL USED TO TAKE VERY FAMOUS SONGS OR CULTURAL PHENOMENA AND DO SPOOFS ON THEM AS MUSIC VIDEOS AND THEY WERE OFTEN VERY GOOD. HE DID ONE FOR MICHAEL JACKSON'S "BEAT IT." WHICH HE CALLED "EAT IT." AND HE DID ONE CALLED, "I LOST ON JEOPARDY!" HOW MUCH CREDIT DO YOU GIVE HIM FOR JEOPARDY!'S RESURRECTION?

Claire says THE TIMING WAS INTERESTING WITH THAT AND I WAS ABLE TO INTERVIEW WEIRD AL FOR THIS BOOK. AND THE SONG ACTUALLY CAME OUT JUST MONTHS BEFORE THE ALEX TREBEK VERSION OF JEOPARDY! DEBUTED. IN FACT, SOME OF THAT WAS JUST SORT OF KISMET IN THAT WEIRD AL HAD SEPARATELY DEVISED THIS AND IT WAS REALLY ABOUT THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF JEOPARDY! AND IT JUST HAPPENED TO COME AT EXACTLY THAT TIME. MERV GRIFFIN WHO HAD A GENIUS WITH SHOW BIZ, HE CROSSED IT WITH WEIRD AL AND IT BECAME AN ANTHEM AND GOT STUCK IN PEOPLE'S HEADS. SUDDENLY PEOPLE WERE THINKING ABOUT JEOPARDY! FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YEARS. AND THAT GOT PEOPLE EXCITED ABOUT SEEING JEOPARDY! COME ON THE AIR AFTER THAT.

Steve says ART FLEMING WAS IN THE VIDEO AND WAS GREAT, PLAYING IT STRAIGHT AND SO FUNNY. DIDN'T YOU THINK SO?

Claire says ABSOLUTELY. YEAH, WEIRD AL WAS DELIGHTED THAT HE WAS ABLE TO GET ART FLEMING TO ACTUALLY COME DOWN AND BE IN THE VIDEO. HE, LIKE TREBEK, REALLY HAD A SENSE OF HUMOUR ABOUT HIMSELF AND SO MUCH OF JEOPARDY! IS THIS VERY SERIOUS, VERY STERN, AUTHORITATIVE THING. BOTH OF THEM WERE WILLING TO POKE FUN AT THAT CHARACTER AS WELL.

Steve says INDEED. CLAIRE, HOW DO YOU GET TO BE A CONTESTANT ON JEOPARDY!?

The caption changes to "Playing the game."

Claire says IT IS SO HARD TO DO. THAT WAS ONE OF THE GREAT JOYS OF WORKING ON THIS BOOK IS I GOT TO SPEAK WITH A LOT OF CONTESTANTS. EVERY YEAR ABOUT 100,000 PEOPLE TAKE THE ONLINE CONTESTANT TEST. OF THOSE 100,000, ONLY ABOUT 2500 ARE INVITED TO AUDITION USUALLY IN PERSON, OF COURSE THIS YEAR ONLINE. OF THAT GROUP, ONLY 400 ARE INVITED TO TAPE IN A SINGLE SEASON OF JEOPARDY!. SO THE NUMBERS ARE TOUGH AND THEY'RE REALLY BRILLIANT PEOPLE WHO SPEND YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS TRYING TO GET ON JEOPARDY! AND IT'S A FASCINATING THING. YOU LOOK AT JAMES COLTOWER WHO HAD THAT SENSATIONAL WIN STREAK IN 2018. HE TRIED TO GET ON JEOPARDY! FOR OVER A DECADE. HE TOOK THE TEST EVERY YEAR FOR OVER A DECADE BEFORE HE WAS FINALLY CHOSEN.

Steve says I GATHER YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE JUST BRILLIANT TO WIN BUT AGAIN I READ IN YOUR BOOK YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO USE THE CLICKER. WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE CLICKER?

The caption changes to "Claire McNear, @clairemcnear."

Claire says THE SIGNALLING DEVICE, THE INFAMOUS SIGNALLING DEVICE. IT REALLY IS THIS OBSESSION OF A LOT OF CONTESTANTS. WHAT YOU CAN'T SEE WHEN YOU'RE WATCHING A GAME OF JEOPARDY! IS THERE ARE BLUE LIGHTS THAT WRAP AROUND THE BOARD AND EFFECTIVELY TELL CONTESTANTS THE EXACT MOMENT WHEN THEY CAN RING IN. IF THEY RING IN BEFORE, THEY WILL BE TEMPORARILY LOCKED OUT OF THE SYSTEM FOR A QUARTER SECOND BUT USUALLY THAT'S LONG ENOUGH THAT SOMEBODY CAN SWOOP IN AND ANSWER INSTEAD. IF YOU'RE NOT GOOD WITH THE BUZZER, YOU CAN KNOW A WHOLE BOARD OF JEOPARDY! AND YOU WILL NEVER GET TO GIVE A SINGLE ANSWER. SO IT IS THIS INCREDIBLE REACTION TIME TEST REALLY TACKED ON TO THE ACTUAL GAME OF JEOPARDY!

Steve says AND WHO IS THAT CELEBRITY WHO IS REALLY GOOD AT IT AND HE'S GOT A BAD THUMB WHICH ACTUALLY PERVERSELY HELPED HIM IN THIS CASE?

Claire says MICHAEL MCKEON. THE BIGGEST EVER CELEBRITY JEOPARDY! CONTESTANT. HE GRACIOUSLY SPOKE TO ME AS WELL. HE HAD A MISHAP WITH HIS THUMB AT SOME POINT. HE HAS AN UNUSUAL WAY OF RINGING IN BUT IT SURE SEEMS TO WORK.

Steve says KEN JENNINGS MOST PEOPLE HAVE HEARD OF, HE WON 74 STRAIGHT AND IS THE ALL-TIME JEOPARDY! CHAMP. WHAT DID HE ATTRIBUTE HIS SUCCESS TO?

Claire says I MEAN, HE'S INTERESTING BECAUSE HE HAD A BACKGROUND IN QUIZ BOWL WHICH IS THIS ACADEMIC COMPETITION WHICH HAS A LOT OF THE SAME TRIVIA GROUNDING AS A SHOW LIKE JEOPARDY!, BUT HE'S ALSO REALLY, REALLY GOOD ON THE BUZZER, AND HE ACTUALLY DOESN'T LOOK AT THE LIGHTS AROUND THE BOARD. HE WOULD GO BY THE SOUND OF ALEX TREBEK'S VOICE. HE WOULD KIND OF ENTER THIS ZEN STATE AND JUST GET THE TIMING EXACTLY RIGHT. AND CERTAINLY HE HAD A LOT OF PRACTICE SO...

Steve says HE'S GOING TO BE THE INTERIM HOST, RIGHT, WHILE THEY LOOK FOR A PERMANENT HOST?

Claire says YEAH. IT SEEMS THAT THEY HAVE A SERIES OF INTERIM HOSTS. SO WE DON'T KNOW HOW LONG KEN WILL BE DOING IT BUT HE'S GOING TO BE THE FIRST INTERIM HOST, YEAH.

Steve says DO YOU KNOW WHETHER HE WANTS THE GIG FULL TIME?

Claire says I ASKED HIM THIS A COUPLE YEARS AGO OF COURSE BEFORE TREBEK'S DIAGNOSIS AND HE JOKED TO ME THAT, YOU KNOW, IF CALLED UPON, HE WOULD CERTAINLY SERVE HIS COUNTRY AND SERVE HIS GAME SHOW.
[LAUGHTER]
SO, YOU KNOW, I THINK IT'S A THING THAT HE HAS CONTEMPLATED BEFORE, AT LEAST.

Steve says HE'LL DO IT FOR GOD, QUEEN, AND COUNTRY. SO NICE TO HEAR. THAT'S GREAT. WE TALKED ABOUT WEIRD AL'S SPOOF. HE'S NOT THE ONLY GUY THAT'S BEEN SPOOFING JEOPARDY!. SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE DOES A PRETTY GOOD JOB OF IT AS WELL. WHY DON'T WE SHOW THAT CLIP AS WELL?

A clip from Saturday Night Live plays, in which comedic actors play Sean Connery, Burt Reynolds and Jerry Lewis competing on Jeopardy.

The host says SEAN CONNERY, IT'S STILL YOUR BOARD.

Connery says I'LL TAKE SWORDS FOR 400.

A board reads "'S' words."

The host says IT'S ACTUALLY NOT... IT'S SWORDS, SWORDS. THESE ARE WORDS THAT BEGIN WITH "S."

[LAUGHTER]

The host says THE ANSWER IS: POPEYE IS THIS SORT OF MAN. BURT REYNOLDS?

Reynolds says WHAT IS POPEYE.

[LAUGHTER]

Visibly frustrated, the host says NO.

The clip ends.

Steve says THEY'VE DONE SO MANY OF THOSE AND WILL FERRELL IS ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL WITH HIS FRUSTRATION. WHY DO YOU THINK ALL THAT WORKED SO WELL?

The caption changes to "Potent parodies."

Claire says I MEAN, I THINK IT SPEAKS A LOT TO HOW OMNI PRESENT AND UNIVERSAL JEOPARDY! IS THAT THAT FORMAT KIND OF LETS YOU HAVE SO MUCH FUN WITH IT. EVERYBODY KNOWS THE KIND OF CENTRAL JOKE. TREBEK WAS ALWAYS ASKED: AREN'T YOU OFFENDED BY WILL FERRELL'S IMPERSONATION OF YOU? HE'S MAD, HE HATES HIS CONTESTANTS. HE IS THE SMARTEST GUY IN THE ROOM AND HE WANTS YOU TO KNOW IT. HE CAN'T WAIT TO GET OUT OF THERE. HATES IT ALL. AND TREBEK SAID THAT, NO, IN FACT HE LOVED... HE LOVED THAT IMPERSONATION AND HE JUST HAD SO MUCH FUN WITH IT.

Steve says CLAIRE, I DO HAVE TO ASK YOU, THOUGH, ONE THING: WHAT IS A POTENT POTABLE ANYWAY?

Claire says THAT WAS JEOPARDY-ESE FOR AN ALCOHOLIC DRINK AND IT IS A RECURRING JEOPARDY! CATEGORY.

Steve says THERE ARE RECURRING, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO CALL THEM, ACRONYMS. SOME ARE ACCEPTABLE FOR FAMILY TELEVISION. SOME OF THEM ARE NOT. I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THEM ALL. THEY'VE GOT THEIR OWN LANGUAGE, RIGHT? DO YOU WANT TO SHARE SOME OF THOSE ACRONYMS THAT PEOPLE SAY?

Claire says YEAH. THERE ARE A LOT OF IN-JOKES AMONG THE WRITERS, RECURRING THINGS THAT THEY WILL DO, LIKE THOSE DARN ETRUSCANS AND THAT BEGAN AS A JOKE IN THE WRITERS' ROOM. THE ACTUAL TRIVIA COMMUNITY HAS A REALLY KIND OF INTENSE CULTURE, A COMPETITIVE CULTURE AMONGST TRIVIA PLAYERS, MANY OF WHOM ARE TRYING TO GET TO JEOPARDY! SOME DAY. THEY USE ALL SORTS OF ACRONYMS. I'M NOT GOING TO TRY TO DO THE LETTERS RIGHT NOW, BUT YOU EITHER KNOW IT OR YOU DON'T IS BROKEN DOWN TO THE FIRST LETTERS OF EACH OF THOSE WORDS, TO DESIGNATE THE KIND OF TRIVIA QUESTION WHERE YOU'RE NOT GOING TO FIGURE IT OUT BY STARING AT THE QUESTION. YOU KNOW WHAT THE FIRST PRESIDENT WAS OR YOU DON'T.

Steve says DO YOU WANT TO TELL US WHAT RTFQ STANDS FOR?

Claire says I'M NOT SURE I'M ALLOWED TO.

Steve says NO, YOU'RE NOT.

Claire says READ THE BLANK QUESTION.

Steve says EXACTLY RIGHT. EXACTLY RIGHT. I DO WANT TO RETURN TO THIS NOTION OF HOW WELL THIS SHOW CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT ALEX TREBEK. YOU KNOW, IT'S ODD TO SAY IT, BUT EVEN THOUGH HE HAS DIED, HE'S STILL ON THE AIR. THE SHOWS THAT HE TAPED ARE STILL GOING TO BE RUNNING I THINK THROUGH JANUARY, THROUGH THE END OF THE FIRST WEEK OF JANUARY AND THEN KEN JENNINGS TAKES OVER. DO YOU HAVE ANY FEARS OR DO THE FANS HAVE ANY FEARS THAT THIS SHOW IS NOT GOING TO SURVIVE WITHOUT HIM?

The caption changes to "A tough act to follow."

Claire says I THINK JEOPARDY! WILL CERTAINLY SURVIVE. I THINK THAT THAT'S... THAT'S NOT IN QUESTION. BUT I THINK THERE WILL BE THIS INCREDIBLY HEARTBREAKING MOMENT WHERE, YOU KNOW, ON A FRIDAY WE'RE GOING TO SEE THE FINAL EPISODE OF TREBEK ERA AND THEN ON MONDAY EVENING AT 7 P.M., IT'S GOING TO BE THE FIRST KEN JENNINGS EPISODE AND AGAIN WE DON'T KNOW HOW LONG KEN WILL BE THE INTERIM HOST, BUT IT WILL BE A VERY, VERY JARRING, HEARTBREAKING THING. SO, YOU KNOW, I THINK THE SHOW WILL CERTAINLY GO ON, BUT I THINK THAT IT INEVITABLY IS GOING TO BE A DIFFERENT KIND OF SHOW AND TREBEK TOLD ME THAT HE REALLY... HE WAS GLAD THAT HE WAS NOT GOING TO BE INVOLVED IN THE SELECTION PROCESS OF WHOEVER WOULD COME AFTER HIM BECAUSE I THINK HE WANTED THAT PERSON TO HAVE THE SAME CHANCE THAT HE HAD, WHICH WAS TO MAKE JEOPARDY! HIS OWN AND HE DID A DIFFERENT SORT OF JEOPARDY! THAN ART FLEMING, AND THAT WAS JARRING I THINK FOR AUDIENCES AT THE TIME, BUT HE OBVIOUSLY MADE IT WONDERFUL AND HE FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM AND WITH HIS VERSION OF JEOPARDY!

Steve says SO HE NEVER DROPPED A NAME TO YOU OF SOMEBODY HE WOULD LIKE TO SEE SUCCEED HIM?

Claire says HE HAD MENTIONED A COUPLE OF NAMES OVER THE YEARS. HIS FAVOURITE OF COURSE WAS TO SAY THAT HE WANTED SOMEBODY SMART, SOMEBODY FUNNY, SOMEBODY YOUNG AND VIBRANT AND BETTY WHITE WAS HIS FIRST CHOICE. HE ACTUALLY DOES HAVE AN EMMY FOR HER WORK AS A GAME SHOW HOST I THINK BACK IN THE '80s. I DON'T KNOW THAT BET AT THIS WHITE IS CHASING THAT... BETTY WHITE IS CHASING THAT JOB BUT WE'LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

Steve says BETTY WHITE HAS HAD A LOT OF ENCORES IN HER CAREER AND I THINK THE FACT THAT SHE IS 90 SOMETHING SHOULDN'T HOLD HER BACK AT ALL.

Claire says IT SHOULDN'T.

Steve says THIS IS STRANGE BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GOOGLE ALEX TREBEK?

Claire says I BELIEVE THERE IS A LOVELY GOOGLE IN-JOKE THEY SUGGEST THE QUESTION: WHO IS ALEX TREBEK?

Steve says YOU GOT IT. YOU GOT IT. WE DID THIS THE OTHER DAY FOR KICKS. WHEN YOU GOOGLE THE NAME ALEX TREBEK, THAT'S WHAT COMES UP: WHO IS ALEX TREBEK? HOW COOL IS THAT? IT IS AN ANSWER IN THE FORM OF A QUESTION.

A screenshot from Google search pops up in which the searched term is "Alex Trebek" and Google's answer is "Did you mean: who is alex trebek."

Claire says IT IS, IT IS. I'M SURE HE WOULD BE VERY PROUD OF THAT.

Steve says I GOT THE FEELING THAT WE OUGHT TO LEAVE THIS INTERVIEW WITH EITHER ME HITTING YOU WITH A JEOPARDY! QUESTION OR YOU HITTING ME WITH ONE. HOW DO YOU WANT TO HANDLE THIS, CLAIRE?

Claire says WHY DON'T YOU ASK ME BUT I'M GOING TO GET IT WRONG.

The caption changes to "tvo.org/theagenda; agendaconnect@tvo.org."

Steve says YOU MIGHT NOT. YOU NEVER KNOW. THIS WILL BE SOMETHING NEAR AND DEAR TO MY HEART BUT NOT NECESSARILY YOURS. LET'S TRY THIS: THEY'RE THE BEST MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TEAM IN THE 21ST CENTURY HAVING WON FOUR WORLD SERIES?

Claire says FOUR WORLD SERIES? OH, MY. I'M GOING TO SAY THE RED SOX.

Steve says WELL, THAT WOULD BE THE CORRECT...

Claire says WHO ARE THE RED SOX? OH, NO!

Steve says I WAS JUST GOING TO BUST YOUR CHOPS, AS ALEX TREBEK WOULD, FOR NOT PUTTING YOUR ANSWER IN THE FORM OF A QUESTION, MY DEAR.

Claire says HE WOULD NOT HAVE GIVEN IT TO ME.

The caption changes to "Producer: Colin Ellis, @ColinEllis81."

Steve says WHAT A TERRIBLE FAUX PAS THAT WAS ALTHOUGH I HAVE TO SAY THAT I'M IMPRESSED THAT YOU KNOW IT'S THE RED SOX. THE BOOK IS: "ANSWERS IN THE FORM OF QUESTIONS: A DEFINITIVE HISTORY AND INSIDER'S GUIDE TO JEOPARDY!" IT'S GOT A FORWARD BY KEN JENNINGS AND CLAIRE McNEAR, ITS AUTHOR, HAS BEEN OUR GUEST. IT'S SO GREAT TO MEET YOU AND HOPEFULLY SOME DAY WE CAN DO THIS IN PERSON INSTEAD OF VIRTUALLY BUT THANKS SO MUCH FOR COMING ONTO TVO TONIGHT.

Claire says THANKS SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

Watch: Alex Trebek and the Legacy of 'Jeopardy!'