Since receiving a diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek has been open with fans about his health, which has been through some highs and lows. After several months of treatment, he announced he had finished cancer treatment and was feeling great, but unfortunately, he experienced a setback just a few weeks later.
On Sept. 17, the host, who has been delivering clues to trivia masters for over 35 years, told GMA that after the first round of treatment, his numbers had been in the normal range, so he switched to immunotherapy. Unfortunately, things quickly took a turn. "I lost about 12 pounds in a week. And my numbers went sky high, much higher than they were when I was first diagnosed. So, the doctors have decided that I have to undergo chemo again and that's what I'm doing."
Unfortunately, this latest round has been much harder on his health, and he has signaled that his time hosting the long-running game show may be nearing a close. "I will keep doing it as long as my skills do not diminish, and they have started to diminish," he confessed in a recent interview, saying the sores in his mouth from the treatments have caused him to slur his words at times.
So who will replace Alex Trebek on Jeopardy! if he stops hosting?
The short answer is that Alex is irreplaceable, but despite his long tenure as host, he would not want the show to end with his reign. In a Vulture interview he said his retirement shouldn't be the end. "It should, and will, go on after i"m done." The trouble is, there have only been two hosts in the history of the show: Art Fleming (1964-1975; 1978-1979) and Alex, from 1984 to present.
But equally iconic game show hosts have passed the baton before — like Bob Barker, who hosted The Price Is Right for 35 years. In fact, until 2014, Bob held the record for most episodes hosted by the same presenter. Who surpassed him? You guessed, it: Alex Trebek.
The host has given some thought to who he'd like to see take his place if and when he were to step back. During a talk at 92nd Street Y in February, he suggested CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, L.A. Kings announcer Alex Faust, and TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.
Fans have some other ideas about potential replacements. Former contestants like Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer get thrown around quite a bit, but both Alex and show sources have indicated that they may be looking specifically for a woman and/or a person of color to replace Trebek. Whoever it is would have to be somebody whip-smart, though. Even with the answers in front of the host, it's hard work reading all those complex clues with minimal mistakes.
Some possible candidates who fit some or all of the criteria suggested include Gayle King, former Power Players tournament contestant Laura Logan, or Ann Curry. Here's hoping that no matter who waits in the wings for Alex's retirement that he gets to end his time on the show on his own terms and with plenty of runway for the next person.
While he doesn't have set plans to step down and doesn't know who would take his place, Alex has very clear ideas about how he'd like to say goodbye to the show that has been central to his life for nearly 40 years. "I've kind of, in my mind, rehearsed it already, and what I would do on that day is tell the director, 'Time the show down to leave me 30 seconds at the end. That's all I want,'" he said in a recent ABC News special about the show.
"And I will say my goodbyes and I will tell people, 'Don't ask me who's going to replace me because I have no say whatsoever. But I'm sure that if you give them the same love and attention and respect that you have shown me, then they will be a success and the show will continue being a success. And until we meet again, God bless you and goodbye.'"
More proof he's truly irreplaceable.