Remembering Alex Trebek’s greatest role — as a mysterious man in black

by Nick Gonzales

On Nov. 8, longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek died. The 80-year-old had announced in 2019 that he was fighting advanced pancreatic cancer.

Most people will remember him for his role on “Jeopardy!” — his dapper charm and slightly stern demeanor were perfect for the slightly-more-erudite-than-average quiz show. He hosted it for 36 years, beginning in 1984, and won seven Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Game Show Host.

But we’ll always remember him first and foremost as a man in black.

Diehard fans of “The X-Files” (aka X-Philes) tend to rank “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” which aired on April 12, 1996, as one of the funniest and most creative episodes of the series. As per usual, it revolves around FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, respectively) investigating reports of an alien abduction, but everything quickly goes off the rails.

In the episode, two teenagers are ostensibly abducted by two classic Grey aliens (or government agents posing as them). After interviewing the teens, Mulder and Scully talk to a power company lineman named Roky Crikenson, who claims he saw not just the abduction of the teens but also the appearance of a third giant, furry, horned alien named Lord Kinbote. Crikenson tells Mulder and Scully that Lord Kinbote took him to the center of the Earth and set him on a spiritual mission, and he is inspired to turn the whole incident into a screenplay. Crikenson then describes being visited by two men in black who tell him that the UFO he saw was just the planet Venus and threaten to kill him if he tells anyone otherwise.

Later in the episode, Mulder is visited by the same men in black — played by Alex Trebek and then-former professional wrestler (and now-former governor of Minnesota and presidential candidate) Jesse Ventura. Within the context of the story, the men in black appear as familiar celebrities so anyone who describes encountering them will come off as a crackpot. It’s easily one of the funnier moments in “The X-Files.”

Darin Morgan, the writer of the episode, said Trebek was the third choice for the role, after author Salman Rushdie and director Steven Spielberg. Trebek, who knew Duchovny, almost turned down the part because of how brief of a cameo it was, but after being told that’s the whole point, he agreed. Trebek has acted — usually as himself — in dozens of other shows and movies, including “The Simpsons,” “Seinfeld,” and “Orange is the New Black.”

We imagine now that Sony Pictures Television is looking for someone to replace Alex Trebek as the host of “Jeopardy!” And this episode of X-Files provides the perfect candidate: Jesse Ventura. It seems obvious that they’ll never find someone who fits the role perfectly in the same way Trebek did, so why not go hard in a different direction? Ventura has hosted TV shows before (such as “Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura”) and as far as we know, now that the election has passed he isn’t doing anything.

Nick Gonzales


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