The end of a television era kicked off this week, when Jeopardy! began airing the final batch of episodes hosted by legendary host Alex Trebek. The episodes, which were filmed just days prior to Trebek's passing on November 8th of last year, have already courted some bittersweet emotions amongst the show's fans, many of whom don't quite want to say goodbye to the television icon. In a new interview with TODAY, Jeopardy! producer Mike Richards shed a bit more light on Trebek's final episodes, and expressed that even though nobody knew they would serve as the host's farewell, he managed to power through "enormous pain" to make them happen.
"He was an absolute warrior and what he was able to do by getting himself back to the set to tape those final episodes," Richards revealed. "We didn't know it was going to be his final episodes and neither did he, but it was herculean. He was in enormous pain. He was, you know, 10 days away from passing away and you will not sense any of that in these episodes. He is strong. He sounds great. He's funny and he's amazing."
Trebek hosted Jeopardy! for over three decades, continuing to do so even after publicly announcing his cancer diagnosis in March of 2019. In the year and a half that followed, Trebek continued to update fans on his condition -- as well as the emotional struggles he felt while undergoing that journey.
"Now I’d be lying if I said the journey had been an easy one," Trebek previously shared in a video update. "There were some good days but a lot of not-so-good days. I joked with friends that the cancer won’t kill me, the chemo treatments will. There were moments of great pain, days when certain bodily functions no longer functioned and sudden, massive attacks of great depression that made me wonder if it really was worth fighting on. But I brushed that aside quickly because that would have been a massive betrayal - a betrayal of my wife and soulmate, Jean, who has given her all to help me survive. It would have been a betrayal of other cancer patients who have looked to me as an inspiration and a cheerleader of sorts, of the value of living and hope, of my faith in God and the millions of prayers that have been said on my behalf."
While the series has yet to name a full-time replacement host for Trebek, it did announce late last year that Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings would be the first in a string of interim hosts.
Trebek's final Jeopardy! episode will air on Friday, January 8th.