Well it’s that time of year again—The rust-colored leaves are finally dropping off the Southern California trees in preparation to bloom straight into summer. The promised El Nino/La Nina is doing the exact opposite of what all its meteorological prognosticators proclaimed, and The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is ignoring both phenomena in deference to something with which we can all identify: selecting and proclaiming this year’s lifetime achievement recipients for the 44th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards! This year’s honorees: None other than erstwhile Entertainment Tonight Host Mary Hart and Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune producer Harry Friedman.
Friedman will be honored at this year’s 44th Annual Daytime Creative Awards ceremony on Friday night April 28th followed by Ms. Hart at the 44th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on Sunday April 30th!
Entertainingly enough (not just tonight or on a night on which either Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune airs) both honorees possess quite storied and colorful careers.
Having begun her vocation as a high school English teacher, then doing a 180 into broadcast journalism, Mary Hart arrived in Los Angeles in 1979 with only $10,000 and a dream: To leave her erstwhile broadcast journalism careers at both KELO in Sioux Falls South Dakota, and KTVY (now KFOR -TV) in Oklahoma City and embark on a momentous acting career! She hit the pavement running to commence her local employ with a small role in Days of Our Lives. The soap opera stint was short lived however, and just about the time her $10,000 savings had completely dwindled, she accepted a position as co-host of the Los Angeles version of the syndicated PM Magazine. This, in turn, carved a path for her 1981 gig as co-host on Regis Philbin’s first national talk show on NBC. Months later ol’ Regis’ first show would be canceled: a story of interest for Entertainment Tonight apparently…and the rest…as they say is history! Hart was interviewed by Entertainment Tonight in order to ascertain how she felt about losing a job only to gain bountiful employment with ET and be offered the gig of correspondent one day later!
She would go on to host Entertainment Tonight for a whopping 29 years from 1982 to 2011! In that time, she would receive the Entertainment Tonight Icon Award whose other recipients include Ellen Degeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks.
To this day, Hart is involved in a number of causes. From her active membership on the Board of Trustees of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, to co-chair of the New Hospital Building Campaign Committee, for which she worked tirelessly to get it built, to her Board membership with the Trustees of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to the Board of Directors for the Museum of Tolerance, philanthropy runs forcefully in her blood! For fun, and hearkening back to her original career of choice upon her initial journey to L.A., Hart has a recurring stint on the Freeform Series Baby Daddy in which she portrays a morning talk show host some might say represents a comedic version of herself. A noted Dodgers fan Mary finds a second home behind home plate at Chavez Ravine!
“The entire country, including me, fell in love with Mary Hart from her very first broadcast of ‘Entertainment Tonight,’” declared Bob Mauro, President, NATAS. “Mary’s charm, wit, smile and intelligence made her the most trusted anchor in the genre of entertainment news. Her ability to make even the biggest stars comfortable made audiences welcome her and ‘ET’ into their homes. Harry Friedman has produced the two most iconic game shows in the country if not the world. His constant tweaking of show formats and the addition of the latest technologies has kept ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ at the top of syndicated television with no end in sight. The National Academy could not be prouder to honor both of these extraordinary television stars with our Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Harry Friedman’s fascination with all aspects of television, Johnny Carson in particular, began at a very early age. Born and raised in Omaha Nebraska, Friedman carved out a space for himself at Omaha’s oldest, most venerable television stations by essentially ‘hanging around’ and learning everything there was to know, thusly creating his very own student internship before the phrase was ever coined.
All Friedman’s knowledge would be actualized however when in 1971 he made the fateful decision to move to the premier metropolis where television was made. Giving himself only six months to reach gainful (or even standard) employment, Friedman would talk his way into a part-time joke writing gig for The Hollywood Squares less than 24 hours before his deadline of departure! From there he would commence his 11 year relationship with Heatter-Quigley Productions for whom he would write and produce thousands of popular series and would also enjoy the opportunity of developing several other game shows not the least of which was Gambit and High Rollers!
Friedman would go on to produce Wheel of Fortune beginning in 1995 and then fill the same position for JEOPARDY! in 1997, and as if that’s not enough, propel Rock & Roll JEOPARDY to stardom on the VH1 network! Friedman’s other writing and producing credits include primetime specials not the least of which encompasses American Yearbook for CBS to documentaries and home video projects. Other companies boasting the privilege of Friedman’s employ are FOX, Dick Clark Productions, Stephen J. Cannell Productions, Buena Vista Television/ABC, Orion Television, The Playboy Channel, Laurel Enterainment, Vin Di Bona Productions, A&E Network, Krofft Productions, Rosner Television and Four Star Productions.
Thanks to Friedman’s innovation, JEOPARDY! Has been dubbed “the most honored syndicated show in television history”. It would go on to win the Peabody Award in 2011, for which the awards panel would laud the show for “encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge”! Throughout its history, JEOPARDY! has won 33 Emmy Awards all topped off with the noted distinction of having received 2015 Emmy for Outstanding Game Show.
Throughout the show’s history, Friedman was constantly innovating and reworking the scope and topical nature of JEOPARDY! so as to include ever expanding subjects and clues pertaining to popular culture, encompassing a plethora of singular tournaments! In 2003 he would end up jettisoning JEOPARDY’S maximum five day regulation allowing winning contestants to continue collecting earnings for as long as they were triumphant! Said allowance would spur one of the most momentous occasions in game show history wherein Utah software engineer Ken Jennigs would go on to NOT wear out his welcome for 74 consecutive days amassing an historic $2.5 million!!! This would in turn, be the series’ best move to date as viewership would go on to increase over 30 percent outperforming even primetime programs to the tune of water cooler banter to rival even that of Melrose Place!
As a precursor to his impending lifetime in achievement, Friedman is no stranger to the Emmy proper as he has received more than a few handfuls for his work on The Hollywood Squares, Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY! His aforementioned work has also garnered him several Guinness World Records including most game show episodes produced (count ‘em 11,128) as of March 31 2016, to speak nothing of highest Emmy Award nominations for a single game show producer (42 to be precise) and most Emmy Award wins in the game show production category (a whopping total of 13)!
But the superlatives don’t stop there as, in 2011, both Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY alike won the Emmy that year for outstanding game show rendering Friedman the first producer ever to tie for Emmys in the same category. In 2007 Friedman garnered the Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award and would later be inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame before turning the calendar on 2008!
A philanthropist at heart, Friedman is a staunch supporter of Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and a multitude of Scholarship funds for gifted students. A co-founder and Board member of the Marlene F. Landy Cancer Foundation, Friedman is a Champion in support of cancer patients undergoing treatment. Moreover, the foundation has gifted over 400 families with its aid!
Friedman lives in Los Angeles with his wife Judy, also an avid humanitarian. Together the two founded the Harry and Judy Friedman Family Foundation which aims at curtailing hunger and fomenting educational opportunities for children along with providing support for U.S. veterans along with an agenda to rescuing and providing humane treatment of animals!
“Harry Friedman is a force unto himself that has taken the game show world and reinvented it for the 21st Century as well as being, perhaps, the nicest man in show business,” according to David Michaels, SVP, Daytime (NATAS). “With Friedman joined by Mary Hart, the woman who set the bar for those that followed in the entertainment news genre, as our Lifetime Achievement honorees, we are looking forward to two incredible celebrations of the world of Daytime television this year. Add to that the move to the historic and elegant Pasadena Civic Auditorium to host both shows and I believe this will be one of the most celebratory and exciting Daytime Emmy Award shows in a long time!”
“The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is excited to be moving our signature show to the historic Pasadena Civic Center,” disclosed Chuck Dages, Chairman, NATAS. “With its grand lobby and world class architecture, it is a fitting location for the 44th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards.”
“We are thrilled to welcome the Daytime Emmys to the City of Pasadena and the Pasadena Civic Auditorium,” exclaimed Michael Ross, CEO, Pasadena Center Operating Company. “It is an honor to host this significant occasion as the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences recognizes the exceptional work of daytime broadcasting.”
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