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Alex Trebek, then 33, had been hosting music programs and quiz shows in Canada for a decade before he arrived in Los Angeles in 1973 to host NBC’s The Wizard of Odds.
The daytime game show gave Trebek his start in U.S. television. Odds offered studio audience members the chance to answer questions based on the law of averages with the chance of winning up to $10,000. “It was a lot of fun — a little off-the-wall and different from most game shows at the time,” says Trebek, now 79. “It had a little more of a party atmosphere.” Trebek was introduced as “the wily wizard himself” but didn’t wear any special costume. He wore a suit, tie and an Afro-esque hairstyle. “We looked at tapes of about 20 or 30 people to host,” says producer Burt Sugarman. “Alex had this attractive and friendly demeanor, with warm eyes, plus he was so articulate.”
There’s almost no visual record of Odds because NBC had a policy, until 1979, of erasing and reusing game show videotapes. The show lasted only one year. “Alex was a lot better than the show was,” says Sugarman. Trebek went on to host a half-dozen games, and since 1984 he’s been on Jeopardy!, which on Jan. 7 will begin its Greatest Champions of All Time tournament. Last March, Trebek announced he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, for which he continues to receive treatment.
This story first appeared in the Jan. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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