Friedman Gets New Sony Pact
Wheel of Fortune , Jeopardy! Executive Producer Gets Multiyear Extension
By Ben Grossman -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/20/2008 7:00:00 PM
Just prior to the kickoff of the National Association of Television Program Executives’ syndication convention, Sony Pictures Television gave Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! executive producer Harry Friedman a new multiyear deal to continue overseeing the top two shows.
SPT president Steve Mosko’s move to lock up the game-show guru comes as the genre and shows like Fox’s new lie-detector show, Moment of Truth, are seemingly ready to step even more into the spotlight with scripted production gone due to the writers’ strike.
Friedman, who was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 2007, said plush primetime slots far from guarantee that a game show will succeed and cautioned networks from rushing to air with formats that “are not fully thought out.” But he also thinks some good shows may fall by the wayside simply because viewers perceive them as filler.
That said, he is bullish on the genre overall and impressed not only by the high quality of primetime successes like Deal or No Deal and 1 vs. 100, but by their ability to keep evolving.
“It’s a great time to be in game shows because people are accepting them as a legitimate form of entertainment,” he added.
And the game show genre will get a fascinating new entrant this week when Fox debuts Moment of Truth. The show is on track to debut to a huge audience since Fox is launching it out of ratings behemoth American Idol this Wednesday.
And while Fox reality guru Mike Darnell’s latest fascinating concoction promises to make viewers squirm in their seats, whether they’ll stay in those seats beyond the first episode remains to be seen.
Friedman is also interested to see how Moment does, as he remembers 1976 lie detector show Hot Seat, which was from game-show producers Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley, for whom he was working at the time.
“If you believe everything happens in cycles, that game was considered way ahead of its time back then,” he said.
As for today, Friedman said it is the most exciting time he has ever seen in the business.
“You can have a dream, whether creative or technological, and then see that dream fulfilled in very short order,” he added. “That’s never been the case. It’s always been very slow and waiting for the technology to catch up to us.”
With that, Friedman is busy working on what’s next for Wheel and Jeopardy!.
He is shepherding Wheel through its 25th-anniversary season and will do the same for Jeopardy! next season. Last year, both shows were renewed through 2012 in much of the country.
After taking his shows HD in 2005, now top of his wish list is to let people play along in real-time with the shows both online and mobile. He is hoping to have that in place by next season.
Friedman recently developed two shows, a Joker’s Wild remake and a new show called Combination Lock, that didn’t end up going forward. And while those two are not necessarily dead, he said he is keeping an eye out for development opportunities but being patient for the time being.
“I think things have to settle down a bit in the game-show area,” he added. “I would [like to develop more], but my primary focus is still Wheel and Jeopardy!.”
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