Are you a quiz20show buff? Well, the category
is "television." What is the world's
#1 quiz show? What is the world's #1 game show?
Harry Friedman, an Agoura Hills resident with
a wife and two daughters, knows the answers. He's
the producer of both shows. Born and raised in
Omaha, Harry says he grew up in the television
business. Well, at least on its fringes. In the
early 1950's, his father was one of the first
retail television dealers in Omaha. Fascinated
with the programs and personalities he saw on
those "magic boxes," Harry hung around
Omaha’s first television station where a local
young man named Johnny Carson was doing quiz shows
at the time. Long before there was any job=2 0like
"production intern," Harry learned the
business by "watching and doing."
In 1971, he moved to Los Angeles, "where
television was happening," and landed his
first t.v. job as a question writer on "Hollywood
Squares." He wrote the questions and he wrote
the jokes. In the seventies, he says, there were
certain things you could say that you can't today.
"Today we're worried about everything being
politically correct. In those days, the attitude
of Hollywood Squares was that you could be irreverent,
you could put down anyone as long you put down
"I had a question for Paul Linde once.
'Is there anything that will bring tears to a
monkey's eyes?' The answer was: 'Yes. Learning
that Tarzan swings both ways.' I'm not sure you
could do that joke today. "
Two emmys and thousands of shows later, Harry
is still in the game show business, producing
JEOPARDY!, the #1 quiz show, and WHEEL OF FORTUNE,
the #1 game show. Both shows have been on the
air for more than a decade. "They provide
a kind of e ntertainment that is not really demanding,"
Harry says. "Watching Jeopardy or Wheel is
not dependent on whether you saw last night's
show or last week’s episode. It's a half hour
that takes you away from your troubles. It's not
Jerry Springer. You don't have to be afraid of
what's on in your home. It's entertaining. You
can even team something."
The shows get more than a million requests a
year from people that want to be contestants.
There are tryouts all over the country. For "Jeopardy,"
prospective contestants have to take a tough intelligence
test. For "Wheel," there's a word puzzle
A lot of people invest a lot of time and effort
to get on these shows. And once the cameras roll,
there's a lot of stress. "We've had people
on both shows pass out, throw up, wet their pants,"
Harry told me. "We've even had to stop for
lactating mothers." AU this happens unbeknownst
to the audience. They simply stop taping.
You don't have to be a Phd to win either. In
fact, on "Jeopardy" the biggest money
winner was a New York City transit cop. "A
smart guy, very well read," Friedman recalls.
"He won $243,000." "Wheel"
gives away $7,000,000 per season.
Although there are 195 episodes of "Wheel"
shot each year and 230 episodes of "Jeopardy,"
they shoot five episodes at a time. So. Alex,
and Pat, and Vanna only work about forty-five
days a year. I think that's why they're always
Harry Friedman is a busy man, producing them
world's most popular game shows. "But game
shows," he laments," are like the Rodney
Dangerfield of entertainment. They get no respect."
All they do is entertain a lot of people and make
a lot of money.
Finally, some game show trivia. Who is listed
in The Guinness Book of Records as the world's
most frequent clapper? If you answered "Vanna
White," you may be quiz show material. Harry
tells me his shows have no losers - just non-winners.