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'Jeopardy!' Leads The Pack In Game Show Ratings, Despite Recent Tragedies

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Source: Jeopardy Productions

Feb. 18 2021, Updated 11:11 a.m. ET

Despite a recent string of tragedies surrounding Jeopardy!, the NBC game show was one of a very few syndicated television programs to post a week-to-week increase.

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In the week ending February 7, Jeopardy! edged up 2% to a 6.1 and held onto the game-show lead for a fourth straight week, according to the Nielsen rating, with guest host Ken Jennings filling in for the late Alex Trebek.

Next in line, Wheel of Fortune was flat at a 5.8 while Family Feud dipped 5% to a 5.5.

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Back in November, Jeopardy!’s long time host passed away at 80 years old following a lengthy battle with stage four pancreatic cancer.

The show made an official statement on Twitter at the time, saying: "Jeopardy is saddened to share that Alex Trebek passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends."

Trebek first announced his battle with pancreatic cancer back in March 2019 and immediately started chemotherapy. Despite his health battle, the TV personality said he was "optimistic," and he continued to host Jeopardy! — a position he had fronted since 1984. 

He was signed on to host the game show until 2022 and even joked: "Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years!"

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Jennings, a Jeopardy! champion, took over as the show's first interim guest host in January. He became a household name when he went on a record-breaking 74-game winning streak in 2004, which earned him a whopping $2.25 million. In January 2020, he took home another $1 million when he won the show’s The Greatest of All Time tournament.

“Alex wasn’t just the best ever at what he did,” the software engineer wrote on Twitter shortly after Trebek's death. “He was also a lovely and deeply decent man, and I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him.”

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Most recently, as OK! previously reported, Trebek’ last Jeopardy! champ, Brayden Smith, died at the age of 24 in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nev., following complications from surgery. His mom, Debbie Smith, shared the tragic news on Twitter on Friday, February 12. 

"We are heartbroken to share that our dear Brayden Smith recently passed away unexpectedly," she wrote. "We are so grateful that Brayden was able to live out his dream on @jeopardy."

Hours after hearing of Smith's unexpected death, Jeopardy! shared their own statement on Twitter. "The 'Jeopardy!' family is heartbroken by the tragic loss of Brayden Smith," the statement read. "He was kind, funny and absolutely brilliant. Our deepest condolences go out to Brayden's family. He will be missed."

Smith was a champion competitor during Trebek's final episodes. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate won five games in a row and over $115,000 during his week on the show, which was filmed last October. 

According to his obituary, Smith was crowned as "Alex's Last Great Champion" on social media and "attained a lifelong dream" when he competed on the show.

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