PERFORMING ARTS

Who Is Alex Trebek? A Biography

Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9781250773661. $27.99. TV
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It’s difficult to separate Alex Trebek from the iconic quiz show he’s hosted for 35 years, but Rogak (Rachel Maddow) does so ably, covering his early career as Canadian TV’s go-to game show host before his move to California, where he hosted American programs that failed to find traction. We also see Alex off-screen as a man of diverse interests: family, philanthropy, fine wines, and a brief stint as baseball player Pete Rose’s landlord. However, Jeopardy! soon takes center stage and Rogak follows Alex as he shoots five episodes back to back, prepping for each one and swapping suits in between. The author also documents the show’s evolution, with format tweaks leading to the rise of powerhouse players such as Ken Jennings and the modernization of content (What is twerking?)—all of which have kept the program relevant. A copious researcher, Rogak draws on decades’ worth of sources, pulling in quotes from published interviews to create a cohesive narrative.
VERDICT With Trebek’s public battle with pancreatic cancer, it’s hard not to ascribe a eulogistic tone to this work. Nevertheless, Rogak’s work is a well-crafted biography that will especially appeal to Jeopardy! fans.

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