Jeopardy! executive producer Harry Friedman has been awarded 13 Emmys® over the span of his career, but this year the awards committee at the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has voted to confer upon him a very special honor: the Lifetime Achievement award. His initial reaction? “I would much rather look forward than look back,” he said, “but it does force you to think about, ‘How did I get here?’”
Harry’s beginning in Hollywood wasn’t easy. Giving himself six months to find a job in the industry or move back home, the Omaha native traveled to Los Angeles in 1971 to pursue his dream of working in television. With less than 24 hours remaining on the clock, Harry caught a break. He met a contact who knew someone who knew someone … well you get the idea. Eventually, one of them connected Harry to his first gig in Hollywood: freelance writing for “Hollywood Squares.” In time, Harry would work his way up to executive producer of that show.
Harry moved on to work on other game shows until he met his fate, or rather “Wheel of Fortune®” in 1995. As producer for “Wheel,” Harry brought even more success to “America’s Game®.” Among many other updates, the show added brilliant new sets, more puzzle categories and exciting new game elements - including a $1 million puzzle piece.
In 1997, Harry’s work expanded when he was also named producer of Jeopardy!, where he has also continually iterated on the game. Remember Ken Jennings’ 74-game streak? Harry was responsible for lifting the five-game streak limit that then paved the way for Ken. Harry is also credited with adding new tournaments, creating the Clue Crew, increasing the prize monies, taking the shows on the road … the list goes on and on. And keeping the show at the forefront of technology as well as current affairs led to such cultural moments as the Jeopardy! IBM Challenge, where champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings played against AI supercomputer Watson.
At the helm of producing arguably the two most successful shows in game show history, the magnitude of Harry’s contributions can be shown in a number: 11,128. That was the number of game show episodes Guinness World Records™ recognized Harry for producing as of April 2016, easily making him the record holder. And that number only continues to grow. Harry also happens to hold the most game show Emmy nominations and game show Emmy wins.
In looking to the future, Harry has a lot he wants to do. “I still want to find ways to expand both shows,” he said. “To make them more relevant, even more interesting, more inclusive, and to constantly be making the shows more accessible to the next generation of ‘Wheel’ watchers and Jeopardy! viewers.”
With all that Harry has accomplished, there’s no doubt he will continue to achieve those goals. Congratulations on the award, Harry!