Alex Trebek left some big shoes to fill, and it would be unfair to compare any newcomer to the legend the host left behind after his nearly four decades of perfecting his craft — but the show must go on, and several have already stepped up to the task.
Couric, the first woman to host the show, said appearing on the set in that particular role had been on her bucket list for a while, especially because — as she told “Jeopardy!” — she loved the show and Trebek’s character and courage.
She took the opportunity very seriously, doing her homework by watching the show “religiously” and observing the ways Trebek comported himself and engaged with contestants.
The 64-year-old said the gig was especially close to her heart as she planned on using her time in the show’s limelight to bring more awareness to pancreatic cancer — a disease that not only took Trebek, but also Couric’s 54-year-old sister, Emily, in 2001.
To further that end, the show decided to raise funds that went to Couric’s non-profit, Stand Up to Cancer.
“The Jeopardy! folks were matching the winnings for my time on the show, so I was able to contribute a substantial amount of money to Stand Up to Cancer, and specifically, the pancreatic cancer dream team,” Couric told People.
“They are focused on pancreatic cancer research, so I did that in honor of Alex and Emily.”
Couric also confirmed that the job is far more difficult than Trebek’s steady front and smooth hosting implied, and said her time as host took a toll on her nerves.
“I was a nervous wreck, honestly,” she said. “There are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes, things you need to figure out. It’s complicated! It requires a lot of multitasking.
“But it was so much fun.”
It’s no coincidence that Couric hosted on an episode set to air on International Women’s Day as the first female host, a fact she highlighted on her social media pages.
“Tune in tonight!” she posted on Monday. “A privilege to honor the extraordinary Alex Trebek. Oh and happy #InternationalWomensDay.”
“I love that I’m the first woman!” Couric told People. “They framed a little thing for me after I was on. It says, ‘What iconic journalist and Stand Up to Cancer founder is the first female guest host of Jeopardy!?’ And then it says, ‘Who is Katie Couric?'”
Of course, not everyone has been a fan of her time on the show (or of the other hosts who have stepped in, for that matter) but all of them have acknowledged in one way or another that they’re not trying to replace Trebek.
“[Alex Trebek] is so missed,” Couric said. “He was so beloved.”
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