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Game Shows You Never Knew Alex Trebek Hosted

The late Alex Trebek, who died on November 8th, 2020 after a year and a half long battle against stage 4 pancreatic cancer, will go down in pop culture history as one of the all-time most iconic game show hosts of all time. He was a rare figure in entertainment whose influence and popularity cut across all demographics and age groups. Perhaps because his fame rose alongside the show he so memorable hosted for decades, Jeopardy!, it's almost impossible to reminisce about Trebek's legacy without hearing the classic Jeopardy! theme in the back of one's head. 

In reality, of course, Trebek was more than just a game show host. After achieving fame due to hosting Jeopardy, he became known as an activist and philanthropist for causes such as World Vision Canada, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and more. And well before Alex Trebek became famous for hosting Jeopardy, he was ... well, hosting other game shows, actually. 

'Game show host' was not Alex Trebek's original career plan

If you're thinking that the career track of "game show host" probably isn't something you get a bachelor's degree in, you're right. Particularly back when Trebek was born, in 1940, the sheer concept of what would one day be his foremost legacy would be hard to visualize. Not surprisingly, then, the younger Alex Trebek's early ambitions were quite different from the path he would eventually forge for himself.

According to Biography, Trebek spent his early years in Sudbury, Canada, the son of Lucille Trebek, a French-Canadian woman, and George Trebek, a Ukrainian immigrant. Upon finishing up his high school years at the University of Ottawa High School, he went to college, where the game plan was to get a degree in philosophy. He graduated from this program in 1961, but the allure of television, rather than further academic pursuits, drew him in quickly: it all started with him doing some announcing work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), according to the CBC. Since he was at this point aiming for a career in journalism, his interests and terrific, calming screen presence made him an easy fit as a newscaster and reporter for the same network. 

It would be these years that the CBC — without any idea of what the future held — decided that Trebek would be a great fit for hosting some game shows. 

The game shows Alex Trebek hosted before 'Jeopardy!'

In the sixties, Alex Trebek quickly became the go-to guy for hosting various TV shows for the CBC. These includes sports announcing, and Music Hop, a teen dance program that featured live musical performances — including, at one point, a young Gordon Lightfoot. 

His rise to game show host extraordinaire, though, seems to have begun when he was placed as the host of Reach for the Top, a quiz-themed program where teams of high schoolers would compete against other such teams, in various academic-themed challenges. By 1969, he was hosting another game show, Strategy. In this program, Trebek would stand in the middle of a circle, while contestants outside the circle would compete to navigate to him, in order to win products like a "clothes dryer" or a "freezer." 

Having proven himself on two smaller programs, in addition to all the previous work on variety shows and the news, Trebek was hired in 1970 to host Jackpot, a more prominent game show that ran on national Canadian television. This success propelled him into the U.S. media landscape, where in 1973 he hosted the U.S. game show The Wizard of Odds, a series wherein audience members were offered cash for answers related to statistical questions. This series only lasted a year, but Trebek rode on to another game show, High Rollers — which had contestants battle to wield giant pairs of dice — which he hosted for two years. In the latter half of the decade, he hosted The $128,000 Question, and started the eighties as the host of Pitfall.

Thus, by the time Merv Griffin revived the sixties trivia program Jeopardy!, in 1984, it's easy to see why he offered Trebek the coveted hosting position. With that wealth of experience, and that comfortable and confident demeanor, Trebek was a natural, and would go on to host Jeopardy! until his death. However, while Jeopardy! host would be the defining role of his career, he still occasionally took the opportunity to host other game shows from time to time, including Pillsbury Bake-Off (1994), and the famous occasion on April 1, 1997, according to Radio.com, when he and Pat Sajak, host of Wheel of Fortune, traded places as a prank.   

As for Jeopardy!, Trebek's final episode will air on Christmas Day, 2020.