Updated: Alex Trebek’s last aired show will be in January, “Jeopardy!” recently announced. See below.
By Connie Leinbach
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Ocracoke Islander Charles Temple is just waiting for the call from “Jeopardy!” for his turn to replace Alex Trebek.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t be on that list,” Temple chuckled during a recent interview discussing the late game show host and recapping his win of the first ever Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament.
Temple, Ocracoke School’s high school English teacher, ascended into the pantheon of “Jeopardy!” champions almost 10 years ago in May 2011.
He was among two other North Carolinians who have been on the show: Former News & Observer editors Rob Waters and Pam Nelson appeared in 1989 and 2010, respectively.
For Temple’s tournament in Los Angeles, he competed against 14 other teachers from across the country, won $100,000, and was guaranteed a spot in the Tournament of Champions.
The Ocracoke community had gathered at what was then Gaffer’s Sports Bar to watch the televised games and cheer for the hometown guy.
“Jeopardy!” contestants don’t get to hobnob with the host, he said.
That’s a legal thing going back to “The $64,000 Question” game show scandal in the late 1950s when the host was caught feeding the answers to the winners.
“They actually have two separate sections of the stage and the contestants are kept sealed away,” Temple said.
What the viewing audience sees during the Jeopardy! shows—when Trebek goes over and chats with each contestant—is it.
“I’s very pleasant, but very quick,” Temple said. “As soon as the cameras go off, you pretty much get hustled away from each other.”
Trebek, who hosted “Jeopardy!” for a record-setting 37 years and died Nov. 8 after battling pancreatic cancer, was more than a celebrity. The last show with Trebek as host will air during the weeks of Dec. 21 and Dec. 28 with 10 of his best episodes, according to the Jeopardy! website. Due to anticipated preemptions around Christmas and New Year’s, Trebek’s last week of episodes will now air the week of Jan. 4.
“It feels like getting a chance to be in contact with an icon,” Temple said about meeting the longtime host. “It was not for nothing that he was everybody’s favorite. He was absolutely one of a kind.”
During the commercial breaks, Trebek would go into the audience and work the crowd, Temple said.
“He was very funny with them,” Temple said. “He wasn’t afraid of a little bit of innuendo or the slightly bawdy joke. He was very cosmopolitan, very sophisticated. Yeah, just sort of a debonair guy.”
Temple is one of those rare contestants that got to play twice because he won the teacher’s tournament. Typically, when you lose, that’s it.
At the Tournament of Champions, he played against people who played many more games than he did and was knocked out in the first round. The Ocracoke community watched that defeat, too, at Gaffer’s.
But Temple noted how the “Jeopardy!” boards are the key and the topics in the Teachers Tournament played into Temple’s knowledge set.
“The tournament of champions wasn’t a particularly great board for me but I was also against up against two guys who were really, really high caliber players, which is not to say, the people in the term in the teachers tournament weren’t good players,” he said.
Amazingly, while in Los Angeles, Temple encountered harder trivia than that on Jeopardy!
One night after the Teachers Tournament, Temple and his partner Chrisi Gaskill went out for a little bar trivia action, and both nights, it was bad.
“We got annihilated,” he said.
Temple said that while it sounds like a silly thing to say, trivia is easy if you know the answer.
“People will be like, what’s the hardest question you got and it’s like, they’re all hard if you don’t know the answer and all, they’re all easy if you do,” he said. “When you get into competitive stuff there’s not always a lot of room to figure stuff out if you’ve never heard of a thing.”
Since his big win, Temple has been one of the regulars at the island trivia games designed by locals and which occur during the off-season. This year they have been scotched during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Often, when Temple has a team, the best other teams can hope for is second place, or, in some cases the rights to brag, “Hey, we beat ‘King Jeopardy!’ last night.”
See story about Temple’s 2011 win here.