NEW YORK — Let's take “Breakfast” for $500: An Oh Henry! chocolate bar and a Diet Pepsi.
And here's the question: What did Alex Trebek consume a couple of hours before this breakfast interview?
“When I say ‘the Breakfast of Champions,' I'm serious,” he jokes as he orders just coffee.
A morning routine of candy and cola might not seem strange for someone other than Trebek. But for 28 years as host of “Jeopardy!” he's blended likability with an air of erudition and correctness. He's seemingly not the sort of guy who, at 71, might choose a wake-up menu better suited to a child whose mother's back is turned.
Trebek acknowledges the apparent contradiction, and, in his resonant, precise voice, is happy to cite another.
“People say, ‘You look to be in great shape for your age,' and I guess I am,” he allows — “except that I keep breaking things.”
There's that darned Achilles tendon, which he tore last July chasing a woman who invaded his San Francisco hotel room and filched several items.
“It's been nine months, and it still kills me when I walk,” Trebek says. “And I'm constantly injuring myself. Doing work around the house, you don't notice when you injure yourself. An hour later you say, ‘Geez, I'm bleeding. How did that happen?'”
But if Trebek repairing his roof on a tottery ladder (result: a broken arm) seems out of character, so be it. In person, he is leading-man handsome in a natty gray suit, a model of calm and control, the perfect steward of TV's answer-and-question institution.
The L.A.-based Trebek is in New York to receive a Peabody Award for electronic media, as “Jeopardy!” joins other awardees that include serious documentaries, edgy comedies and high-toned dramas.
“We're in some prestigious company,” Trebek says. “But I think what makes ‘Jeopardy!' special is that, among all the quiz and game shows out there, ours tends to encourage learning.”
Certainly, the “Jeopardy!” audience (which averages 9 million daily) is rallied by each day's three contestants who confront the game board with its half-dozen categories, each of whose five answers demands the right question.
But wait — what about that R-word? A few weeks ago Trebek was quoted as saying he was thinking of retiring, with the explanation, “30 years has a nice ring to it.”
Now he chuckles at the uproar he sparked. What's so surprising that, after 50 years in the business and 71 birthdays, he might consider calling it quits?
“Saying that I've thought about it doesn't mean that I'm doing it,” he reasons.