NEW YORK — Let’s take “Breakfast” for $500: An Oh Henry! chocolate bar and a Diet Pepsi.
And here’s the question: What did Alex Trebek consume a couple hours before this breakfast interview?
“When I say `the Breakfast of Champions,’ I’m serious,” he joked as he ordered coffee.
A morning routine of candy and cola might not seem strange for someone other than Trebek.
But for 28 years as host of “Jeopardy!,” he has blended likeability with an air of erudition and correctness.
He’s seemingly not the sort of guy who, at 71, might choose a wakeup menu better suited to a child whose mother’s back is turned.
In person he is leading-man handsome in a natty gray suit, a model of calm and control, the perfect steward of TV’s answer-and-question institution (7:30 p.m. weekdays, WCBD in the Lowcountry.)
The L.A.-based Trebek was in New York to receive a Peabody Award for electronic media, as “Jeopardy!” joined other awardees that include serious documentaries, comedies and dramas.
“We’re in some prestigious company,” Trebek said. “But I think what makes ‘Jeopardy!’ special is that, among all the quiz and game shows out there, ours tends to encourage learning.
“A lot of the stuff is trivia, but maybe a subject will come up that will arouse the viewers’ curiosity and they’ll want to find out more. We tell you it’s OK to be bright, to know a lot of things, and to want to learn.”
Certainly, the “Jeopardy!” audience — which averages 9 million daily — is rallied by each day’s three contestants who confront the game board with its half-dozen categories, each of whose five answers demands the right question.
Maybe never in the show’s long history was the competition fiercer, and more fun, than in February 2011, when a supercomputer named Watson humbled reigning human champs in a battle of Machine vs. Man.
“I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” Ken Jennings (famed record-holder for the longest winning streak) scribbled alongside his Final Jeopardy response.
Just another learning experience for all.
And what of the R-word? A few weeks ago Trebek, 71, was quoted as saying he was thinking of retiring, with the explanation, “30 years has a nice ring to it.”
Now he chuckles at the uproar he sparked. What’s so surprising that, after 50 years in the business, he might consider calling it quits?
“Saying that I’ve THOUGHT about it doesn’t mean that I’m DOING it,” he said.