Press release from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Jan. 26, 2017:
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) today proudly announced that two legendary Hollywood icons, Mary Hart, former host of “Entertainment Tonight,” and Harry Friedman, producer of two of the most successful game shows in television history, “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” will be honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards this year. Friedman will receive his at the 44th Daytime Creative Arts Emmy® Awards on Friday, April 28th, 2017. Hart will be honored on Sunday, April 30th, 2017 at the 44th Daytime Emmy® Awards. Both presentations will take place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Southern California.
“The entire country, including me, fell in love with Mary Hart from her very first broadcast of ‘Entertainment Tonight,’” said 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 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,” said 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,” said 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,” said 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.”
Without Mary Hart, there would be no Entertainment Tonight (ET) and perhaps the very genre of entertainment news would not exist on television. Mary literally traveled the country in ET’s early years and met personally with station managers who warmed by her charm, kindness, determination and wit, gave Entertainment Tonight a chance. They were happy they did. America fell in love with Mary Hart and became obsessed with breaking news about entertainment and celebrities. ET was a hit. In doing so, Mary Hart opened the doors for so many others: Mario Lopez, Billy Bush, Maria Menounos, Nancy O’Dell, Liz Hernandez, Natalie Morales and countless more.
Mary hosted Entertainment Tonight from 1982 to 2011, which is a record setting number of years hosting a magazine show. A former high school English teacher, Mary began her full-time television career at KELO in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In 1976, she went to KTVY (now KFOR-TV) in Oklahoma City, where she co-hosted a show with Danny Williams called Dannysday.
Determined to leave journalism behind, she moved to Los Angeles in 1979 with $10,000 in the bank. Mary landed a small role on the Days of Our Lives (you can say she got her start in Hollywood in a daytime drama). Almost broke, she became a co-host on the Los Angeles version of the syndicated PM Magazine. That led to a job in 1981 as co-host of Regis Philbin’s first national talk show on NBC. When that show was canceled four months later, Entertainment Tonight interviewed her about what it felt like to be canceled. The day after the interview, she was hired as an ET correspondent. Thirteen weeks later, she was named the show’s co-host, along with Ron Hendren. Robb Weller, John Tesh, Bob Goen and Mark Steines would join her throughout the decades to come.
On August 5, 2010, Hart announced that she was leaving the show at the end of the upcoming 30th season. Hart’s final episode aired on May 20, 2011—ending her 29-year history with the program. Mary was honored with the first ever Entertainment Tonight Icon Award in October of 2015. Other recipients were Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks.
She is actively involved as a member of the Board of Trustees of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and was co-chair of the New Hospital Building Campaign Committee, working tirelessly to open the new building five years ago. Mary serves on the Board of Trustees for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Board of Directors for the Museum of Tolerance.
Currently Mary continues her active life as a philanthropist and, for grins, Mary is a recurring character on the Freeform series Baby Daddy, where she plays a comical fictionalize version of herself, who hosts a morning show, Mary. You can also find Mary behind home plate at Chavez Ravine where she is an avid Dodgers fan!
A native of Omaha, Neb., Friedman 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, Friedman began hanging around Omaha’s first television stations, learning by watching and doing whatever management permitted. While attending the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Friedman also worked as a reporter and feature writer for the Lincoln Star newspaper.
In 1971, Friedman arrived in Los Angeles and, without contacts, gave himself 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. Over the following 11 years, Friedman 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. In 1998, he helped launch Rock & Roll JEOPARDY, which aired on the VH1 network. Friedman’s other writing and producing credits range from network primetime specials, such as American Yearbook for CBS, to documentaries and home video. He also has worked with such companies as FOX, Dick Clark Productions, Stephen J. Cannell Productions, Buena Vista Television/ABC, Orion Television, The Playboy Channel, Laurel Entertainment, Vin Di Bona Productions, A&E Network, Krofft Productions, Rosner Television and Four Star Productions.
Under Friedman’s direction, the hit series JEOPARDY! has become the most honored syndicated game show in television history. In 2011, Friedman guided JEOPARDY! to win its first-ever Peabody Award. The awards 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.
Friedman has continued to broaden the show’s scope with an expanded list of challenging categories and clues that reflect popular culture and also 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.
Friedman’s work on Hollywood Squares, Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY! has earned him multiple Emmy® Awards and three Guinness World Records® records. He is the Guinness World Record holder for most game show episodes produced with 11,128 (as of March 31, 2016), 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, Wheel of Fortune and JEOPARDY! 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.
In 2007, Friedman 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.
A member of the Writers Guild of America-West and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Friedman lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Judy. Together, they are champions of philanthropy. The pair supports Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and multiple scholarship funds for deserving college students. Friedman is also a co- founder and Board member of the Marlene F. Landy Cancer Foundation. The foundation provides support to cancer patients while undergoing treatment. To date, more than 400 families have received assistance. In addition, Harry and Judy Friedman have established The Harry and Judy Friedman Family Foundation. The private foundation supports programs that aim to assist children by reducing hunger and increasing educational opportunities. The foundation also supports veterans of the U.S. armed services and programs dedicated to the rescue and humane treatment of animals.