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What it was like behind-the-scenes of Alex Trebek's final 'Jeopardy!' tapings

During what turned out to be one of Alex Trebek's final "Jeopardy!" episodes, the host gave a speech that left the crew in tears. This is what he said.

A longtime "Jeopardy!" executive has revealed what it was like behind-the-scenes during what turned out to be Alex Trebek's last days on the game show.

The beloved quiz show host died Sunday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80.

For decades, Trebek brought his calm and collected voice into homes across the nation. 

"Jeopardy!" Executive Producer Mike Richards explained to KTLA that Trebek had undergone surgery just weeks prior but didn't want to cancel the show's tapings. 

While behind-the-scenes Trebek was clearly in "rough shape" and in pain, Richards said "you would never know" based on his performance in front of the camera hosting what turned out to be his last episodes. 

"You can't overstate how good he is in these episodes, these are the episodes that will air on the week of Christmas, and in a kind of amazing twist of fate, his final episode will air on Christmas Day. And he was kind of the ultimate gift to all of us," Richards described. 

Monday, the day after Trebek died, Richards spoke to viewers from the "Jeopardy!" set in a tapped introductory message at the beginning of the show. 

In the message, he said of Trebek, “he will forever be an inspiration for his constant desire to learn, for his kindness and for his love of his family,” said Richards. “We will air his final 35 episodes as they were shot. That’s what he wanted. On behalf of everyone here at ‘Jeopardy!’ thank you for everything, Alex.” 

Richards then introduced the show with Trebek's trademark opening line, “This is ‘Jeopardy!’” 

That was followed by a moment of silence on the set with the lights dimmed. 

Alex Trebek's final episodes

Trebek has hosted "Jeopardy!" since 1984, and it's hard to imagine the show without him. He was known to have reminded others that he didn't feel he was the star of the show, but rather that the contestants were. 

As Variety reported, Trebek's last episodes were taped on Oct. 29, just 10 days before his death. The show will continue airing those new episodes that Trebek taped until Christmas Day.

Earlier this year, Trebek opened up about how he wanted to end his final episode. At the time, he said he'd only need 30 seconds at the end of his final show to give a speech. 

"I will say my goodbyes and I will tell people: 'Don’t ask me who’s going to replace me because I have no say whatsoever.' But I'm sure that if you give them the same love and attention and respect you have shown me...then they will be a success and the show will continue being a success," he explained for the ABC special "What is Jeopardy? Alex Trebek and America's Most Popular Quiz Show.".

Trebek said his final words on the show would be, "And until we meet again, God bless you and goodbye."

While Trebek didn't know these would be his final episodes, Richards explained that there was an incredible moment on the Monday show of Christmas week where he gave an impromptu speech about the importance of being together and with family. 

"We all had tears in our eyes," Richards recounted to KTLA. "He really did care for his family. He cared for everyone in that way that he wanted everyone to have love and compassion for each other and I think that's what makes him great."

"Jeopardy!" was created by Merv Griffin and first aired on NBC from 1964 until later in the 1970s. At that time, the show was hosted by Art Fleming, who died in 1995, Variety reported

Trebek took over as host of the show in 1984 when a revived version of the game show premiered. Trebek held the Guinness World Record for the most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter, for the same program, since June of 2014. 

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Who will host "Jeopardy!" next?

After Trebek hosted the show for decades, it will be hard to imagine it without him. But Trebek made it clear that he wanted the show to live on. 

It's unclear who will take over hosting duties, but Trebek would jokingly tell the audience that he thought 98-year-old Betty White should be the one "because they want somebody younger, somebody funnier." 

In 2018, Trebek offered up two other names as possible replacements including Los Angeles Kings play-by-play announcer Alex Faust and CNN legal analyst Laura Coates.

Credit: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
FILE - In this May 5, 2019, file photo Alex Trebek poses in the press room at the 46th annual Daytime Emmy Awards at the Pasadena Civic Center in Pasadena, Calif. Trebek said Tuesday, Sept. 17, that he’s had a setback in his battle with pancreatic cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy again.(Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)