What Alex Trebek is really like

Carson and Cronkite are long gone, but Alex Trebek remains, the last of the old-school broadcasters who once visited us every night as a matter of ritual. When the syndicated modern “Jeopardy!” began in 1984, he was perhaps an odd choice to replace the show’s original host, the dignified Art Fleming: He was young, sexily mustached, fresh from dopey daytime game shows like “Battlestars.” But two generations of youngsters have now grown up on his clipped syllables. College students and retirees alike plan their evenings around his reassuring presence. He takes it seriously, being the face of “Jeopardy!,” the voice of facts in a post-fact world. I’ve seen him with the beaming tourists who sit in his studio audiences and the awe-struck, bookish kids for whom he was the host of the National Geographic Bee for 25 years. He knows how much he means to people, and I hope it gives him comfort that so many people are pulling for him now.

I remember that sense of awe myself, when I watched Alex walk onstage at the top of my very first show. After decades of loyal home viewing, it’s a little surreal to have the game suddenly come to life and surround you, like “Jumanji.” But the funny part was how ordinary and comforting and right it felt to have Alex Trebek standing a few feet away, welcoming you to the stage.