Three rounds, 13 categories, 61 pairs of answers and questions, 28 seasons, 13,000 contestants, one Alex Trebek. The master of the trivial. On television, anyway. In person . . .
“I was just reading something by Immanuel Kant about perpetual peace, and I’m looking at that, and it’s a great idea,” Trebek says, sitting in an armchair in the executive suite of the Capitol Hilton last week, a couple of days before taping the show’s “Power Players” edition in the District. “But I’ve got to read it about three or four times in order to figure out exactly the point he’s trying to make.”
You have Kant with you?
“Yeah I just printed it out because I was interested in something going on,” he says, his voice lowering, like he wants to change the subject.
“Well,” Trebek says, almost muttering, “just — the future . . . ”
“How are we going to deal with the future,” he says without question marks. “How are we going to achieve peace.”
And here’s your host . . .
Here we have Alex Trebek. He’s a quiz-show host from Los Angeles. It says here that one of your earliest memories is breaking through thin ice on a creek in your native Sudbury, Ontario.
“Mid-winter,” Trebek says, in a hypnotized monotone. “When I was about 7 years old. My sister and a couple of her friends were playing on a frozen creek that was not frozen entirely. And I told her, ‘Get off the ice. It’s not safe. It’s too dangerous. I’ll check it out for you.’ And then the ice cracked under me, and I fell in.”
The boy dried off, learned his lesson, completed his French Canadian upbringing, majored in philosophy at the University of Ottawa, took a broadcasting job because it paid his tuition, went with the flow to California, knocked around in a half-dozen game shows in the ’70s and early ’80s (“Wizard of Odds,” “The New High Rollers”) and landed a winner in 1984. A reboot of the original version hosted by Art Fleming in the ’60s and ’70s, “Jeopardy!” was expected to last for six or seven seasons, according to its late creator, Merv Griffin, but ended up becoming a syndicated staple of Americana.