‘Wheel of Fortune’: Why Pat Sajak is Sometimes Given Weird Titles on Show Like ‘Towel Boy’

by Josh Lanier
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There’s a hidden Easter egg in the Wheel of Fortune credits. You may have caught it over the years but most didn’t. But one eagle-eyed viewer noticed it and reached out to the show in 2010 to get some answers.

Why is Pat Sajak listed as “Towel Boy,” “Chief Bottle Washer,” or some other random title in the final credits of Wheel of Fortune. Ask and ye shall receive Alex D.

“We have a bizarre Executive Producer named Harry Friedman (and I use “bizarre” in the best sense of the word) with way too much time on his hands,” host Pat Sajak answered.

It was an ongoing practical joke between the two, and Sajak seemed to enjoy it as much as the fans who noticed it.

It is a harmless joke, but it came from someone with a serious ability to make game shows. Sajak has said on more than one occasion that producer Harry Friedman quite literally “savedWheel of Fortune. Sajak worried network executives were about to cancel the show until Friedman came along and modernized the format. And added a little bit of levity and creativity to the proceedings.

How Harry Friedman Saved ‘Wheel of Fortune’

Harry Friedman retired from Wheel of Fortune in 2020. He’d spent 25 years at Sony, which included a stint where he produced both Wheel and Jeopardy! He holds the Guinness World Record for most Game Shows Hosted with 12,540.

When Friedman took over Wheel of Fortune, the show was floundering. How they produced the game show was inefficient and cumbersome. For instance, before Friedman took over, Vanna White would manually turn the letters on the big board. Switching to a digital board may not seem like much, but it was a massive improvement.

“Between puzzles, the crew would have to stop taping, draw huge duvetyn curtains in front of the puzzle board and manually replace each letter in each lightbox. The process stretched out a half-hour show to 45 or 50 minutes of taping, which would ‘just suck the life out of the audience, out of the contestants and out of Pat [Sajak] and Vanna [White],’ Friedman told Variety after he announced his retirement.

“Harry quite literally saved the show when it desperately needed a strong dose of creativity,” Sajak told Variety.

For Jeopardy!, Friedman loosened the rules, which allowed for contestants like Ken Jennings to have such historic runs. Before, the show had a cap on how many games a contestant could win. He also added visual clues to the show, where contestants could see actual footage of the location along with the question. Sometimes, it even included a special guest reader.

“Harry is the most creative producer I’ve ever worked with,” said Trebek, in an emailed statement to Variety.

He also digitized the Jeopardy! game board as well.

“There’s no one in this business I respect more,” Sajak said. “I will miss his tremendous talent, his unerring instincts, and his genuine kindness. He is simply the best.”

White also had nothing but kind things to say about Friedman.

“Harry Friedman is the best producer I’ve ever worked with,” she added. “Not only his positive energy but really caring for his whole staff and crew makes him one of a kind. I’ve loved every minute of working with him.”

Outsider.com