First ‘Jeopardy!’ episodes since host Alex Trebek’s death to feature Orange County contestants

Costa Mesa resident Ben Lewis stands on the set of "Jeopardy!" along with host Alex Trebek.
Costa Mesa resident Ben Lewis, right, stands on the set of the game show “Jeopardy!” along with host Alex Trebek in September. Lewis appeared on the show Monday night, a day after Trebek died.
(Courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

The show goes on for the long-running game show “Jeopardy!” after longtime host Alex Trebek died Sunday morning.

Trebek, who had hosted the popular show where contestants must answer clues in the form of a question since 1984, died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80.

The first two episodes to air after his death are scheduled to feature Orange County contestants.

Ben Lewis, a 28-year-old data scientist from Costa Mesa, won Monday night’s show with a total of $44,401. He was scheduled to compete on Tuesday night against two other players including Greg Marrero, a 48-year-old school administrator from Huntington Beach.

The episode will air at 7 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on KABC Channel 7.

After a long battle with pancreatic cancer, the celebrated game show host passed away at his home.

Lewis and Marrero each taped their episodes in September, they said.

“I’ve wanted to be on essentially all my life, but I haven’t auditioned prior to this,” Lewis said. “The online test is open every January, and I always seemed to miss it somehow. This year, I happened to take it and qualify there.”

Lewis said he watched Monday night’s “Jeopardy!” episode with his parents and girlfriend, and was going to try to organize a Zoom watch party with some of his college friends from UC Berkeley.

Lewis said his interactions with Trebek were limited to the show only due to COVID-19 protocols, but he had a great time, without giving away just how he did.

“I feel very fortunate to have been on the show prior to his passing, but obviously it’s a huge loss for everyone who’s ever watched or appeared on the show, the cast and crew, his family,” Lewis said. “He’s just really irreplaceable in the hearts and minds of trivia buffs everywhere. I’m glad to have been on [Monday night’s] episode, but I know that it’s going to be an emotional episode for essentially everyone watching.”

Lewis will compete Tuesday against Marrero as well as Melissa Givens, a voice professor and singer originally from Buffalo, N.Y.

Huntington Beach resident Greg Marrero, right, will appear on the game show "Jeopardy!" on Tuesday night.
Huntington Beach resident Greg Marrero, right, will appear on the game show “Jeopardy!” on Tuesday night.
(Courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

Marrero said this was his third time auditioning for “Jeopardy!” but his first time making it on the show. He first auditioned for a teen tournament more than 30 years ago, he said, and he auditioned again in 2006.

“I watched it very religiously when I was younger,” Marrero said. “When I go and visit my parents, my mom is usually watching the show. It’s fun to sort of go back and reminisce, yell out the answers just like I did when I was younger.”

The last “Jeopardy!” episode hosted by Alex Trebek will air in December. Meanwhile, fans want to know who will replace him as speculation builds.

He said he first put the news that he would be on Tuesday’s show on social media on Saturday. The next morning, he got a flood of texts after Trebek had died.

“It was just so unexpected, [for it to happen] the very next morning,” Marrero said. “I just feel very lucky that I was able to participate in the show while Alex was there. He was very friendly, energetic, he was sharp as a tack. I feel really blessed that I was able to meet him. He was still in his prime, and clearly he was doing what he loved all the way up until the end. It was a really special experience.”

Marrero said that Trebek seemed to get a kick out of the fact that he had also auditioned to be on “Jeopardy!” as a teenager.

“I think the best part of the magic of him was that he was able to do that with thousands of people over his career, make each person feel really seen and like they were a unique individual,” Marrero said. “That was really great.”

According to Sony Pictures Entertainment, which produces the game show, Trebek’s last day in the studio was Oct. 29. His final episode hosting the show will air on Christmas Day.

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