‘Classic Concentration’: Alex Trebek Was at His Flirty, Playful Hosting Peak on the 1980s Game Show
But the Canadian-born television personality hosted more than just the classic answer-and-question program throughout his career. He also helmed at least a half dozen other competitive game programs.
Now, with nostalgic game show network Buzzr airing Classic Concentration, we get to see another side of him: Trebek at his laid-back, flirtatious, witty, 1980s self.
Trebek’s shoes have been hard to fill
Since Trebek’s death Jeopardy! has, instead of naming a permanent replacement (but really, who could replace Alex?) compiled a roster of guest hosts until a new host is finally named.
The first guest host was Greatest of All Time former contestant Ken Jennings. In a 2020 interview with Time, Jennings touched on the image many have of Trebek as the erudite, distant teacher.
“Running a fast-paced show like Jeopardy! is a harder job than viewers realize; the host is not only moderating the game for the three contestants, but he’s also interpreting it for viewers,” he said. “Alex wasn’t aloof; he was just busy. But he always made it look easy.”
The show’s executive producer Mike Richards ran the show for two weeks following Jennings and, of late, former morning show personality Katie Couric has stepped in.
Couric will be followed by, in no particular order, football quarterback Aaron Rodgers, 60 Minutes‘ journalist Bill Whitaker, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Today‘s Savannah Guthrie, and actor Mayim Bialik, according to the Jeopardy! website.
He hosted more than just ‘Jeopardy!’
Before Jeopardy!, Trebek also hosted Double Dare from 1976-1977, High Rollers in 1978, The New Battlestars from 1981 to 1983, To Tell the Truth in 1991, and Classic Concentration from 1998 to 1991, the latter of which he hosted at the same time as Jeopardy!
In his 2020 memoir The Answer Is…, Trebek wrote about his abundance of game show work saying that at one point, he had “seven jobs in ten years. I never felt frustrated by the lack of continuity during those years. That’s just the business. I was just happy to have a job. There’s a lot to be said for being gainfully employed in the entertainment industry.”
Trebek on ‘Classic Concentration’
Buzzr brought back Classic Concentration in March of 2020 with episodes featuring Trebek when he starred on the show from 1988 to 1991. Much like the kids’ game of Memory, it was played by two contestants and required focus and good recall.
Contestants dealt with 25 numbered squares and prizes behind each number. If the prizes behind two numbers matched, that prize would go into that player’s prize column behind them. If they were able to decipher the rebus puzzle behind the numbered squares, the prizes were theirs. The winner of two matches got to play in the final round for a new car.
In his earlier episodes of the game show, Trebek could be seen looking uncharacteristically casual in colorful sweaters, holding female contestants’ hands, asking all contestants about their marital status…it was a different era and a looser Trebek.
Another fun aspect of watching the show were the prizes. Along with the customary Caribbean vacation giveaways, the show also featured prizes such as stereo cassette players, toaster ovens, indoor putting greens, grandfather clocks, earrings, bar tools, and more.
Fans of the game show from back in the day expressed their observations at its reappearance.
“This is when tv games were at their best,” said one fan on Buzzr’s YouTube page.
Fans seemed surprised at Trebek’s vastly different demeanor than on Jeopardy!: “I’m watching this series on [Buzzr]. Alex was flirting his ass off!” Another chimed in, “Trebek’s getting a little handsy with the married [lady].”
Once the Jeopardy! personality’s run on the show ended in 1991, it was never aired again with another host.
With many commenters calling for a reboot of Concentration, maybe we’ll see a prime time special one of these days picking up where Trebek left off.