Alex Trebek is still not ready to retire from Jeopardy!, but he already knows what he hopes his cultural impact will be. At the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Wednesday, Trebek and Greatest of All Time Tournament champions Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and James Holzhauer spoke about the longtime host’s status as a living legend as he continues to receive treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Trebek confirmed that he does indeed have a plan lined up for how to announce his retirement, but he denied that he is ready to do so. “Thinking about retiring and retiring are two different things,” he told reporters at the press event. “We’ll see what happens. As long as I feel my skills have not diminished too much, and as long as I’m enjoying spending time with people like these three [I’ll keep working].”
The host did take time to reflect on what he hopes his cultural impact will be when he steps away from the stage. “I hope I’ve been an influence for good and an influence for the benefits of not minimizing the importance of knowledge in one’s life,” Trebek said. “The benefits of knowledge. Even though you are not going to use a particular bit of knowledge, information that you acquire — even if you are not going to use it in your daily life, your work life or whatever — it becomes part of you and enriches you and makes you a better human being and I think a more understanding human being. The more you know, the easier it will be to understand everything else that’s going on in the world. If you have limited knowledge, then you’re approaching other people from a limited point of view, and that can be disastrous, as we have seen.”
Trebek also offered an update on his ongoing treatment for cancer, admitting, “some days are better than others” when it comes to his health. “My resistance is lower than most of you, of course, because of the treatments I’ve been having, chemotherapy,” he said. He also revealed that he has has been taken off one of the medications that was causing him trouble but said he still felt a little sluggish while recording the tournament.
“I seemed a little slower in the ad-libbed portions,” he said of his work in the first tournament episode, which aired Tuesday night. “I could still deliver the clues at a rapid pace to keep up with these three … I feel like I was not having one of my best weeks. So, some weeks are good and some weeks are bad.”
The series’ champs, who each wore pancreatic cancer ribbons to the event as a show of solidarity for Trebek, also weighed in on what it means to them to get to compete once more on Jeopardy! knowing what the host is facing with his diagnosis.
“It’s very special for us because we know that Alex has been doing the show for 36 years and we’re not going to get too many chances to play with him,” Ken Jennings said. “We’re hard pressed to imagine anybody that’s going to replace him …The fact that we got to play with him one more time was very special.”
Brad Rutter added, “One thing that highlighted it for me is that we take [him] for granted. Before, you go ‘Oh, hi Alex. Good to see you again.’ Now that he’s not going to be hosting the show forever, it’s made it that much more special to come in, see him, and watch him do his thing. He’s absolutely the best who has ever done it. he’s very modest, and will tell you that you don’t owe him anything, but we all do. There wouldn’t be any Jeopardy! without Alex, and Jeopardy! changed my life, and these guys’ lives.”
Jeopardy!‘s Greatest of All Time tournament continues on Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 8/7c.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)
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