An idealistic young lawyer working for a Congressional subcommittee in the late 1950s discovers that TV quiz shows are being fixed. His investigation focuses on two contestants on the show "Twenty-One": Herbert Stempel, a brash working-class Jew from Queens, and Charles Van Doren, the patrician scion of one of America's leading literary families. Based on a true story. Written by
Tim Horrigan <email@example.com>
When he first talks to James Snodgrass, Richard Goodwin mentions that he was on "Twenty-One," on January 13 (presumably 1958), before Van Doren. Van Doren was on the show from November 28, 1956-March 11, 1957; Snodgrass's games against Hank Bloomgarden came after that because the first known date for which Snodgrass wrote down everything he was supposed to do was for the May 20, 1957 broadcast. See more »
The address written on Goodwin's legal pad does not match the street address when they visit. See more »
I was growing up during the Charles Van Doren scandal, and I remember his face on the front page of the paper and my mother crying. When I asked her what happened, she said, "He told a lie." He told a whole bunch of them, in fact, and was part of the quiz show scandal of the '50s, which Quiz Show so beautifully dramatizes. Robert Redford does a fantastic job of recreating the atmosphere in perfect detail, as well as the fascinating story of the '50s version of reality TV, the quiz shows, going awry.
Paul Scofield is absolutely mind-boggling as Van Doren Sr., and Ralph Fiennes is wonderful, handsome, and charismatic as Charles Van Doren. The rest of the cast is marvelous - John Turturro, David Paymer, Hank Azaria, and Rob Morrow.
Van Doren was a dream contestant - good-looking, educated, with a beautiful speaking voice - and captivated the country with his intelligence. Unfortunately, it wasn't reality at all, just fantasy. But, as Van Doren says while verbally sparring with his dad, "It was mine own." It sure was, and he went into oblivion because of it.
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