ONE OF TELEVISION’S MOST PROLIFIC PRODUCERS, HARRY FRIEDMAN HAS DELIVERED MORE THAN 8,000 EPISODES OF THE TWO MOST ENDURING AND SUCCESSFUL SYNDICATED PROGRAMS OF ALL TIME: WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND JEOPARDY! IT’S AMAZING HE’S STILL AS HUMBLE AS HIS FIRST DAY ON THE JOB.
As a child growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Harry 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, Harry began hanging around Omaha’s first television stations, learning by watching and doing whatever management allowed. Some people call that chutzpah. While attending the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Harry also worked as a reporter and feature writer for the Lincoln Star newspaper, but there was something more waiting for young Harry.
In 1971, without any contacts to speak of, Harry arrived in Los Angeles and gave himself just 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. Harry never looked back. Over the following 11 years, he 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. What makes him so successful at his job is his ability to maintain the tradition of the long-running shows, while tweaking each just enough to keep them current and on the cutting edge. Others call that genius, but Harry prefers to call it being innovative.
Harry has earned two Guinness World Records® for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, and is also the Guinness World Record holder for both 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, both shows 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, which led to a bizarre moment when he had to shake his own hand.
In 2007, Harry 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, he’s known for staying ahead of the curve with innovative game elements and incorporating the latest technology.
"It's a kick for us to be able to open up that window to a different world to our home audience."
Under Harry’s direction, Jeopardy! has become the most honored syndicated game show in television history. In 2011, he guided Jeopardy! to win its first ever Peabody Award. The award’s 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.
Harry 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,” a historic competition that pitted two of the show’s most successful and celebrated contestants—Ken 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-day exhibition matches scored the series’ highest ratings in five years, surging 30 percent from the previous year, making Watson a pop culture icon and a part of the American lexicon.
Harry’s ideas have reached far beyond the famous Stage 10 at Sony Studios where Jeopardy! is taped. He was instrumental in the creation of the Clue Crew, a team of roving correspondents who travel the world delivering visual clues for the millions of viewers back home. Additionally, Harry plays a very active role in Jeopardy!’s digital and social initiatives, including Jeopardy.com, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
A member of the Writers Guild of America-West and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Harry lives in Los Angeles with his wife Judy. They have two daughters, Amy and Leslie, one of whom Harry wanted to name Clue, but fortunately his wife stepped in.