Just before Christmas, longtime 6ABC Action News anchor Jim Gardner popped up on Jeopardy! to deliver a clue about the Franklin Institute. It’s something Gardner has been doing just about once a month since September, when he was joined by his Action News colleagues to deliver clues under the category “Philadelphia.”
So imagine Gardner’s surprise when the vacationing news anchor happened to run into Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek during a tour of the historic Masada fortress in Israel on Christmas day.
Gardner, who is on vacation through next week, said Trebek happened to be visiting the historic site with his family. Trebek talked up the anchor , making sure to mention how much Philadelphians love Jeopardy! (Nielsen ratings confirm that).
“He was very personable when many Philadelphians on our tour gravitated towards him. He took pics and all,” Gardner said.
After sharing the photo and spending some time with Trebek, Gardner said he was surprised when he saw his Twitter feed flooded by comments from viewers a little miffed he wasn’t wearing a Phillies hat during his trek through Israel.
“I’ve been buying other teams’ hats when I go to their stadiums since I was a kid. That’s a lot of hats, including the Houston Colt 45’s,” Gardner said, laughing off the criticism. “I got the Tigers hat when my son and I visited University of Michigan and naturally, we went to a Tigers game.”
“I love that tweeters get exercised about things like that,” Gardner added.
Maybe hanging around with a Philadelphia institution like Gardner will get Trebek back in the good graces of some viewers who weren’t thrilled with his performance as a debate moderator during the 2018 Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign.
“I thought that as moderator, I was to provide a certain light-hearted approach while still being able to challenge the candidates on their record or positions,” Trebek wrote in a statement in October following the debate between Gov. Tom Wolf and his Republican challenger, Scott Wagner. “I didn’t realize I was to ask a simple question and then let the gentlemen go at each other … I offer my sincere apologies to the people of Pennsylvania, a state I dearly love.”
In his 41st year as 6ABC’s 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news anchor, Gardner and the Action News broadcast remains a ratings powerhouse in and around Philadelphia. It certainly helps that Gardner is a familiar face to generations of local TV viewers, and that he shows no signs of letting up any time soon.