Though he passed away from stage 4 pancreatic cancer at the age of 80 in November 2020, late Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek had one final message of love and hope to share with viewers on Monday. Before the first of his final run of episodes (set to air through Friday, January 8), Trebek took a moment to address the world at the start of a new year. "You will recall about a month ago, I asked all of you to take a moment and give thanks for all of the blessings that you enjoy in your lives," Trebek began.
He continued, "Now, today a different kind of message. This is the season of giving. I know you want to be generous with your family, with your friends, your loved ones, but today I'd like you to go one step further. I'd like you to open up your hands and open up your hearts to those who are still suffering because of COVID-19. People who are suffering through no fault of their own. We're trying to build a gentler, kinder society. If we all pitch in just a little bit, we're going to get there." Here's a look at his full message:
Speaking with EW in December 2020, Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards opened up about what the filming of Trebek's final episodes were like and how things were on set. "As I mentioned, he had been out with the surgery, and I wasn't sure he would be back to tape those days. So for the few of us that knew what exactly was going on, there was a heightened sense in the room," Richards explained. "I had chills throughout the first taping on that Monday, because I was watching him, going, 'How is he doing this?' He came in at a higher level than normal, and his normal was excellent. On that first episode, he walked out, and you'll see it when it airs, he gives this amazing speech about the holidays and coming together and being strong and taking care of each other. And we didn't know he was gonna do that; he just walked out and did it. And you'll see in the episode, we all started to clap, and there's points in Jeopardy! where you clap and there's points in 'Jeopardy!' where you don't; that's not a normal spot. You can see [Trebek] kind of look over at us as he was crossing to reveal the categories: 'What are you guys clapping about?'"
Richards continued, "Those final five episodes, we shot three the first day and then two the second day, and they were great. You'll watch them and you'll go, 'This guy's as healthy as could be. This is not a sick person at all.' He had that much willpower. And we knew how much he was fighting, and that's what made the performance even more impressive. And then one last thing I'll share with you: On the second day of taping, what would end up being his final taping and the final time he was in the studio, I went to the door where [he exited] and said, 'Hey, that was the most incredible thing I've ever seen.' And he did not like to be complimented. That was kind of staring down the mouth of a great white when you'd do that, because he really didn't like that. But I had to say it, because it was the most incredible thing I'd ever seen. And he was exhausted, obviously, and he looks up and he goes, 'Thank you.' He knew what he had done and appreciated the fact that we all knew what he had done. So those last two days are very special, and I'll never forget them.