"Trebek’s appeal was remarkably broad in such a polarized era," says Joe Pinsker. "His devotees have a range of ages and backgrounds; last week, one contestant said to Trebek, 'I learned English because of you,' explaining that he had watched the show as a child sitting on his grandfather’s lap. In 2013, Reader’s Digest published a list of the most trusted Americans. The poll was not exactly rigorous, but Trebek came in at No. 8, behind Tom Hanks and Maya Angelou, but ahead of Jimmy Carter and Julia Roberts. Jeopardy! is expected to continue after Trebek, but finding someone as well liked to succeed him will be tough. Trebek himself speculated in a 2018 interview that the show’s producers might consider a woman for the job...One trait of Trebek’s that seems hard to replicate is his hallmark seriousness, which was endearing but sometimes over-the-top, as when he pronounced certain non-English words with a flourish." Pinsker adds: "It’s hard to imagine a future Jeopardy! host reading out clues without the same mix of seriousness, warmth, and flair, but it’s just as hard to imagine who, other than Trebek, could pull it off."
By all that is right and just, Jeopardy! should never air a show after Alex Trebek’s final show: "That is the show that should be the ace that wins the hand and cleans out the table," says Ray Ratto. "It is hard to imagine anyone who could succeed him, and it is harder still to think of anyone who would thrive upon succession. After all, Art Fleming, the original host, didn’t like the reboot of the show because he thought moving it from New York to Los Angeles would dumb it down. Whether or not Fleming was right is immaterial. Jeopardy! had this way of grafting itself into one’s brain box, whether you were the first host, the second host or, well, whomever the third host will be. It is the last discernible rock amid the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is modern television. And therein lies the trick here. Since Jeopardy!, as cashy a cow as TV has ever emitted, is not going to vanish with Trebek because nobody in that business leaves as much as a quarter in a sewer grate, the question of succession is a massive one. Even though he fistfought cancer for two years and gave every indication that he would win on all three judges’ cards, the inevitable must surely have gnawed at the brains of the producers. Unless, of course, they, like the rest of us, thought he would live forever, or do the show intercranially from a studio location in the Phantom Zone. Still, on the slim chance that answering in the form of a question will survive us all, someone will have to do it, damn the comparisons." Ratto offers a list of potential Trebek successors, including Dave Chappelle, Jane Lynch, Michael Sheen, Drew Carey, Jamie Foxx, Ellen DeGeneres, Jameela Jamil, Tom Brady, Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter.
Ken Jennings pens a tribute to Trebek, saying he was always in on the joke: "Alex was a natural for the erudite, dignified Jeopardy! vibe, and he enjoyed the fact that his singular job description turned him into a familiar figure in popular culture and comedy. But he was always in on the joke; he was playing Alex Trebek," Jennings writes in Time magazine. "The off-camera Alex was the son of an immigrant family from working-class Sudbury, Ontario, and after Jeopardy! tapings I would often see him in a baseball cap and dad jeans, heading for his pickup truck. Sometimes one of his kids was in tow. He was on his way home to work on one of his endless DIY projects around the house: the roof, the plumbing, the pool. Alex was a throwback to a generation of self-reliant, self-taught generalists—curious about everything, eager to try everything for himself. As Jeopardy! aged into a TV institution, Alex became an elder statesman. He sometimes seemed like a visitor from another time, quizzing players about Chopin études and the War of 1812 in defiance of the Real Housewives marathon just a remote-click away. He was such a reassuring figure if you cared about facts and learning—particularly if you were a kid who cared about facts and learning."
Trebek was on television long enough to become someone who simply was television: "He looked more like himself when he got older," says Darren Franich. "Glasses, no mustache, hair salt-white with all the pepper shaken out: That’s how I’ll remember Alex Trebek. Maybe you stopped watching Jeopardy! around 1997, and then randomly caught an episode in 2011. Between were years of war and recession and Obama, The Sopranos changing television and Survivor changing reality and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? boom-and-busting quiz shows through primetime. All along, Trebek stood behind his podium, in glorious daily syndication, waiting for answers in the form of a question. His death on Sunday ends multiple eras of television history. He was on television long enough to become someone who simply was television, face familiar as family, voice recognizable in just a split-second of channel-surfing. Who was Alex Trebek? On Jeopardy! he came off like the kind of professor you only see in old movies: a smile stern yet warm, posture unbent by any keyboards, handsome in an untroubled way. He was an Ontario boy who would get visibly excited about Canadian categories, but his appeal was the opposite of personal, and he was never trying to be relatable."
Trebek and Jeopardy! were a beacon of democratic ideals, flattening the world for all to consume: "High and low, popular and obscure, new and old, holy and profane, Trebek put all of them on equal terms," says Oliver Roeder. "Look no further than the episode of Jeopardy! that aired this past Friday, for example. It featured clues about Rihanna, Madonna and Katy Perry, and clues about the city of Vaduz, the Russian navy and the German chancellor. All were on the same game board — though Gene Wilder and the Cook Strait were worth more money than any of them. Jeopardy! and Trebek have been a haven for facts as monuments of truth have crumbled in the public sphere. The holder of the country’s highest office now baselessly disputes legitimate election results, espousers of baseless and dangerous conspiracy theories are elected to Congress, and fact-checking is a booming industry."