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Jeopardy host loses battle with cancer

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Jeopardy host loses battle with cancer
Jeopardy television game show host Alex Trebek during the 40th annual Daytime Emmy Awards, June 16, 2013. (Reuters)

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LOS ANGELES – Game show host Alex Trebek, who as the brainy quizmaster of Jeopardy! became one of the most recognisable personalities on American television, died on Sunday at the age of 80, the show said on its official Twitter account.

The Canadian-born Trebek said in a YouTube video in March 2019 that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, vowing to beat the disease despite the long odds.

Trebek told fans in August 2019 he had completed chemotherapy, but he disclosed the following month that he had to restart treatment because of a setback.

He passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family and friends, the show’s tweet said.

Twenty years after Jeopardy! first aired in 1964, Trebek became the face of the show and turned it into a ratings powerhouse.

Jeopardy! which requires contestants to display their knowledge of a broad range of trivia topics by providing their answers in the form of a question, has consistently drawn more than 20 million viewers a week in the United States and Canada, making it the most-watched quiz show in those markets.

Its ratings have risen even higher when contestants have racked up several weeks of consecutive wins.

Trebek was known for engaging contestants with straight-faced but witty banter and for his scholarly demeanour and scrupulous pronunciation.

He won six Emmy Awards for outstanding game-show host, most recently in 2019, and also received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 2011. The Hollywood Reporter said in a 2014 article that Trebek was earning $10 million a year.

Trebek was born in the nickel-mining city of Sudbury, Ontario, the son of a Ukrainian immigrant father and a French-Canadian mother. He earned a degree in philosophy at the University of Ottawa, beginning his career in broadcasting while still attending school.

After hosting a number of television shows in Canada during the 1960s, Trebek was encouraged to move to California in 1973 by the late actor Alan Thicke, a fellow Canadian, to host a short-lived NBC game show called The Wizard of Odds.

None of them became an enduring success but they bolstered Trebek’s reputation in Hollywood and eventually paved the way for his joining Jeopardy!, which was conceptualised by television personality Merv Griffin and his wife Julann.

Viewers became oddly attached to the moustache Trebek sported from early in his career until he shaved it off in 2001. It made headlines when he grew back the mustache in 2014.

Trebek is survived by his wife, Jean, and their two adult children, Emily and Matthew. (Reuters)