‘Jeopardy!’: What Did the Legendary Host Alex Trebek Do Before Game Show Hosting Gig?

by Jennifer Shea
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The late, great “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek did not start his television career at “Jeopardy!”. He had several other gigs before he stumbled across the game show he would host for 37 seasons.

After the University of Ottawa, Trebek worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), where he covered national news and special events. He later moved to the U.S. where, in 1973, he began hosting NBC’s game show “Wizard of Odds,” according to the “Jeopardy!” website.

Trebek hosted several other game shows before “Jeopardy!” came along. Those included the CBS show “Double Dare,” “High Rollers,” “Battlestars” and “Classic Concentration.” Plus, he hosted one episode of “Wheel of Fortune” on April Fool’s Day in 1997, per Parade.

According to the Boston Herald, roughly 400 other game shows premiered and then went off the air during the time in which Trebek hosted “Jeopardy!”.

Late ‘Jeopardy!’ Host Alex Trebek Launched His Career at the CBC

Trebek’s early work for the CBC had something in common with “Jeopardy!”: variety. The breadth of subjects Trebek got to cover kept him from losing interest, he told the Television Academy Foundation in a 2007 interview. And that was not unlike the wide variety of topics covered by “Jeopardy!.”

“I enjoyed doing everything – as a staff announcer, you did a little bit of everything,” Trebek explained. “You read the news, you did sports, you did weather, you did the stockyard report… You hosted different shows. And because I was bilingual, I got to host some shows that would wind up on both networks, the English network and the French network. So when we had big programs like ballets and symphonies, things like that, quite often they would ask me to host.”

“That was a source of great joy for me,” Trebek added. “Because I had so much variety that I didn’t have a chance to get bored with the regular staff announcing tasks.”   

Trebek Hosted His First Game Show in Canada

The very first game show hosting gig that Trebek got was actually in Canada. It was “Music Hop,” and in that show, Trebek spoke to visiting musicians and announced the songs to which the studio audience of teenagers would dance. It was not so different from “American Bandstand.”

“When I transferred to Toronto, I hosted the first live teen music show on the air,” Trebek told the Television Academy Foundation. “And that preceded ‘Hullabaloo,’ and what was the other one?… It’ll come to me later… So that was fun. And that was exciting, because it was live, and if you messed up – we had no cue cards or anything, so it was easy to mess up. And I messed up a few times. But you don’t worry about it; it’s live, so you just go on.”  

While it was relatively common for “Jeopardy!” contestants to make mistakes, by the time he hit his stride hosting the long-running game show, Trebek rarely messed up. Which just goes to show he learned a thing or two from those early experiences.

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