Harry Friedman is the executive producer of the two most enduring and successful syndicated programs of all time: Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY!. He is one of television’s most prolific producers, and his success is marked by his ability to maintain the traditions of both long-running shows while tweaking each just enough to keep them current and on the cutting edge.
Friedman’s work on Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY! has earned him several Emmy® Awards and three Guinness World Records® records: He is the Guinness World Record holder for most game show episodes produced with 11,128 (as of March 31, 2016), most Emmy® Award nominations for a game show producer with 42 and most Emmy® Award wins by a game show producer with 13. In 2011, Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY! tied for the Outstanding Game Show award, and Friedman became the first producer ever to win two Emmys in the same category in a tie with himself.
In 2007, Friedman was honored by the National Association of Television Program Executives with the prestigious Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award. Later that year, he was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
Named a 2012 Daily Variety Daytime TV Impact Honoree, Friedman is known for staying ahead of the curve with innovative game elements and incorporating the latest technology. In September 2006, JEOPARDY! and Wheel of Fortune made television history when they became the first syndicated programs to broadcast in High Definition. Friedman has also championed the development of Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY! extensions for mobile devices, along with versions for Facebook, Nintendo’s Wii, and PlayStation.
A member of the Writers Guild of America-West and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Friedman lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Judy.
Together, they are champions of philanthropy. The pair supports Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and multiple scholarship funds for deserving college students. Friedman is also a co- founder and Board member of the Marlene F. Landy Cancer Foundation. The foundation provides support to cancer patients while undergoing treatment. To date, more than 300 families have received assistance.
In addition, Harry and Judy Friedman have established The Harry and Judy Friedman Family Foundation. The private foundation supports programs that aim to assist children by reducing hunger and increasing educational opportunities. The foundation also supports veterans of the U.S. armed services and programs dedicated to the rescue and humane treatment of animals.
"It's a kick for us to be able to open up that window to a different world to our home audience."
A native of Omaha, Neb., Friedman developed an early fascination with television programming and personalities, including a young, local celebrity named Johnny Carson. Long before the concept of student internships was created, Friedman began hanging around Omaha’s first television stations, learning by watching and doing whatever management permitted.
While attending the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Friedman also worked as a reporter and feature writer for the Lincoln Star newspaper.
In 1971, Friedman arrived in Los Angeles and, without contacts, gave himself six months to find a job in the business. With less than 24 hours remaining on his self- imposed deadline, he talked his way into a part-time question-writer spot on “Hollywood Squares,” marking the beginning of his long, valued relationship with Heatter-Quigley Productions. Over the following 11 years, Friedman wrote and produced thousands of episodes of the popular series and was also actively involved in the development of several other game shows, including “Gambit” and “High Rollers.” He first joined Wheel of Fortune as a producer in 1995, adding producer duties for JEOPARDY! in 1997.
In 1998, he helped launch Rock & Roll JEOPARDY!, which aired on the VH1 network. Friedman’s other writing and producing credits range from network primetime specials, such as “American Yearbook” for CBS, to documentaries and home video. He also has worked with such companies as FOX, Dick Clark Productions, Stephen J. Cannell Productions, Buena Vista Television/ABC, Orion Television, The Playboy Channel, Laurel Entertainment, Vin Di Bona Productions, A&E Network, Krofft Productions, Rosner Television and Four Star Productions.
Under Friedman’s direction, the hit series JEOPARDY! has become the most honored syndicated game show in television history. In 2011, Friedman guided JEOPARDY! to win its first-ever Peabody Award. The awards panel credited the show for its role in “encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge.” JEOPARDY! has won a total of 33 Emmy Awards, including the 2015 Emmy for Outstanding Game Show.
Friedman has continued to broaden the show’s scope with an expanded list of challenging categories and clues that reflect popular culture and a variety of special tournaments. In 2003, he lifted JEOPARDY!’s five-day limit rule for contestants, allowing returning champions to continue amassing winnings as long as they remain victorious. This rule change led the way for the memorable 74-consecutive-day run of Utah software engineer Ken Jennings, during which he won a record $2.5 million. Series viewership increased an impressive 30 percent during the streak, at times outperforming primetime programs while making it one of the most talked-about shows in the country.
In 2011, Friedman oversaw “JEOPARDY! The IBM Challenge,” an historic exhibition that pitted two of the show’s most successful and celebrated contestants – Jennings and Brad Rutter – against an IBM computer named Watson. Thanks to this unique partnership, JEOPARDY! served as a vital testing ground for the next generation of artificial intelligence. The three-episode special scored the series’ highest ratings in five years, making Watson a pop culture icon and a part of the American lexicon.
Friedman was instrumental in the creation of the JEOPARDY! Clue Crew, a team of roving correspondents who travel the world to tape visual clues for the millions of viewers back home. Additionally, Friedman plays a very active role in JEOPARDY!’s digital and social initiatives, including, Facebook, Twitter, and a brand-new Jeopardy.com.
Friedman also is the driving force behind streaming network Crackle’s weekly quiz show Sports Jeopardy!, which launched in 2014, and for which he serves as executive producer. In May 2016, the series was renewed for its third season on Crackle, and will also run as part of NBC’s Summer Olympics programming on NBC Sports Network.
At Wheel of Fortune, Friedman has kept the show fresh and exciting while offering contestants more chances to win. New elements Friedman has implemented through the years include: The “Express Wedge,” “1/2 Car Tag,” “Free Play,” “Toss Up” puzzles, brand integration opportunities, the “Mystery Round,” the “Wild Card” and the “Million Dollar Bonus Wedge.” He also oversaw the introduction of a new, highly sophisticated set, which incorporates state-of-the-art lighting, as well as a modernized puzzleboard with LCD screens and the ability for letters to appear with only a touch of Vanna White’s hand.
In addition, Friedman is responsible for giving fans of the show more of what they want: more ways to play, interact with the show and win. To help fans play more, he oversaw the development and launch of games for various mobile devices and game consoles. Also, he has implemented an interactive “tweetstakes,” where a partially revealed puzzle appears during the contestant interviews and fans are invited to tweet the correct solution to be eligible for a prize.
WheelofFortune.com was recently re-designed to give viewers a destination to interact with the show and win more prizes. The site allows visitors to check in to see if they won that night’s “$5K Every Day Sweepstakes,” enter to win luxury vacations from show partners and learn more about what happens behind the scenes.
The Wheel Watchers Club, the first-ever, long-term, online viewer loyalty program in television history, and its extension, the SPIN ID program, were both developed by Friedman. The club’s membership has now reached more than 10 million members.
Additionally, he conceptualized the Wheelmobile, a mobile tour conducting contestant search events across the country providing fans the chance to audition for the show.