Alex Trebek on Retirement Question: "We'll See What Happens"

Alex Trebek speaks during a rehearsal -Jeopardy! Power Players Week - Getty-H 2019
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Jeopardy host Alex Trebek took a victory lap Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, a day after ABC's Greatest of All Time tournament gathered an impressive 14 million live viewers.

During his 45 minutes before the press corps, the 79-year-old game show host, who was asked about retirement — "Thinking about retiring and retiring are two different things," he said — provided an update on his health after receiving treatment following his stage IV pancreatic cancer diagnosis last March.

"Some days are better than others," Trebek said Wednesday. "My resistance is lower than most of you because of the treatments I've been having — chemotherapy — and … I have the cold that seems to be going around," he said. "This is the second time I've had it in the past month and a half. They got me off one of my chemo drugs, which was killing me. I won't know until [Thursday]; I go in for some tests, then another week before I find out where things stand. I have good days and bad days."

Trebek, who famously tapes five installments in one day of the long-running trivia show, revealed that he noticed that he wasn't having one of his best weeks during production of the Greatest of All Time taping. "I seemed a little slower in the ad-libbed portion," he said. "I can still deliver clues at a rapid pace but … some weeks are good and some weeks are bad."

Despite his health struggles, Trebek returned to host the syndicated favorite in August, after which he again had to return to chemotherapy when his "numbers went sky-high." 

Trebek has been the host of Jeopardy for nearly four decades and was asked Wednesday about how much longer he plans to continue in his iconic role. "When you've been in the same job for that period of time and you're in advanced years, it behooves you to think about retiring," he said. "Thinking about retiring and retiring are two different things. … We'll see what happens. As long as I feel my skills have not diminished too much and as long as I'm enjoying spending time with people like [champions James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter], [longtime executive producer] Harry [Friedman] and the writing staff, then I'll continue doing it."

As for how his potential retirement could play out onscreen, Trebek said he already has a plan in mind — and that it would happen on "a whim." "I would tell Harry to give me 30 seconds at the end of the program to say goodbye because it's going to be the last show," he said.

As for the impact he has had in his career, Trebek — ever the gentleman — downplayed the notion and instead credited the success of Jeopardy. "I've been extremely lucky," he said. "I have had the good fortune in my nearly 60-year career to not be unemployed for more than a total of nine months in all of that period, the good fortune to be associated with good television programs and to be able to bask in reflected glory of Brad, Ken and James, who demonstrate on our program and in other situations how bright, funny and engaging they are. … I hope I've been an influence for the benefits of not minimizing the benefits of knowledge in one's life."