Remembering Alex Trebek’s most iconic “Jeopardy!” pop culture moments

The game show host became a symbol of Americana and daytime television throughout his 37-season stint on the show.

In a pop culture landscape where fame is fleeting, with new celebrities rising to stardom and falling from grace every few years, Alex Trebek was something of a mainstay. As the host of “Jeopardy!” since 1984, Trebek brought generations together through a universally appealing medium: a game show. His death on Nov. 8 united fans once more in grief and in celebration of the host’s legacy.

It’s difficult to describe the impact Trebek had, but it’s evident through the numerous parodies, references to, special episodes and spoofs of “Jeopardy!” over the years. In honor of Trebek and his 37 seasons as the show’s host, here are four of the most iconic “Jeopardy!” moments in pop culture.

“Black Jeopardy!” One of the most memorable “Saturday Night Live” skits of the past decade, “Black Jeopardy!” is a recurring parody of the game show hosted by Kenan Thompson as Alex Treblack. Each recurrence features an all-Black cast, except for the inevitable third contestant, who is almost always white. The spoof uses question categories that are only answerable by Black people, which results in the white contestant’s hilarious discomfort and confusion. It also leads to some important commentary on being Black in America, especially when Tom Hanks makes an appearance as a Donald Trump supporter. Though the skit has taken on a life of its own over the years, its original inspiration comes from Trebek’s dry humor and the snappy wit he lent to “Jeopardy!” as a host.

“Wheel of Fortune” crossover Two of the longest-running game shows ever, “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” have a lot in common: dedicated fanbases, long-term hosts and huge cultural impacts. So it’s no surprise that in 1997, Trebek and Pat Sajak, the host of “Wheel of Fortune,” decided to capitalize on that similarity and swap spots as hosts for an April Fools’ Day prank. The “Wheel of Fortune” episode hosted by Trebek saw Sajak and Vanna White, his co-host, as contestants. The prank ended in White and Sajak each winning $25,000 for charities of their choice. Notably, “Jeopardy!” has also featured other April Fools’ Day pranks over the years, including a 2016 episode in which Trebek briefly appeared without pants on.

“The Simpsons” episode Numerous sitcoms and cartoons have spoofed “Jeopardy!,” but none featured Alex Trebek quite so well as “The Simpsons,” which aired a parody episode, “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace,” in 1997. The Simpsons are in debt to their neighbors due to an incident earlier in the episode, so Marge Simpson attempts to win money on “Jeopardy!” Her episode doesn’t go so well — she ends up $5,200 in the hole, which results in Trebek himself and the Simpsons’ entire hometown seizing all their belongings to cover the debt. Featuring Alex Trebek voicing himself, the episode is a wildly inaccurate parody that still manages to pay tribute to the game show.

“Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” In January 2020, “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” aired on network television, and featured former champions Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter competing for the title of the “Greatest of All Time” or the “GOAT” of “Jeopardy!” Each contestant was a former record-setting “Jeopardy!” champion. While it wasn’t surprising to watch Jennings take the title and the $1 million prize, having previously set the record for longest winning streak (74 wins), the fierce competition and witty banter between Trebek and the three trivia greats will go down in history, especially after Trebek’s death just months later.

When asked about “Jeopardy!” parodies on “Saturday Night Live” and other shows, Trebek said, “I love them. It means you’ve arrived … that means there must be a lot of people who have watched your show over the years or are watching now.” Ever humble, Trebek represented more than just a game show host — he made ripples in the culture of television that will continue for years to come. Though Ken Jennings won the title earlier this year, Trebek himself was truly the “Greatest of All Time.”

Edited by Chloe Konrad | ckonrad@themaneater.com

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