'Jeopardy!' honors Alex Trebek with tribute after longtime host's death

"He will forever be an inspiration for his constant desire to learn, his kindness and for his love of his family.”
Image: FILE: Alex Trebek Dies At 80
"Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek has died at 80 years old after a battle with pancreatic cancer. This photo shows him on set on April 17, 2010.Amanda Edwards / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

As the nation mourns the loss of television legend Alex Trebek, his longtime show “Jeopardy!” paid him a sweet tribute on Monday evening.

One of the show’s executive producers, Mike Richards, opened the show.

“This is an enormous loss for our staff, crew, for his family, for his millions of fans,” he explained.

"He loved this show and everything it stood for. ... He will forever be an inspiration for his constant desire to learn, his kindness and for his love of his family.”

Richards went on to say Trebek, 80, had taped his final two episodes “less than two weeks ago,” and they plan to air all 35 as they were shot.

“That’s what he wanted,” Richards said in the tribute. “On behalf of everyone here at ‘Jeopardy!’, thank you for everything, Alex.”

The camera rested for a moment on the empty set before the show began, starring, as always, the late Alex Trebek.

Richards spoke with TODAY on Monday morning before the tribute aired. He said the longtime “Jeopardy!” host had “made being smart cool” but also had a great sense of humor.

“What ended up being our final day taping, I knew he was in an enormous amount of pain,” Richards recalled to Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. “As he was leaving, I saw him at the door and I said, ‘That was maybe the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.’ And he had his head down and he kind of looked up and said, ‘Well, thank you.’”

“He accepted that he was really fighting,” Richards explained of that moment. “It was just so important for him to do this show and to support everything that it means to America.”

Describing Trebek behind the scenes, Richards said, “He was even better than what you hoped for.”

"He was incredibly hard-working," he said. "He cared about this show. He cared about the importance of this show and that it helped people want to be smarter. He made that cool.”