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>
No part of the game show cover up was against any law, and no one went to prison. Individuals were prosecuted for obstruction of justice and perjury for their part in covering it up. It led to massive changes in laws regarding contests. Most quiz shows were canceled, and the genre nearly died. One of the few to survive was a bowling show; the sport is difficult to fix on television. In the 1970s, a new generation of game shows used puzzles and word play rather than trivial knowledge. Limits restricted the length of a championship run and amount that could be won. See more »
Mark Van Doren mentions that he feels "like Leopold of Belgium, usurped by his son before his time." While true that Leopold abdicated the throne to his son, it was not because of any conspiracy or plotting from within his family, but because Leopold had become a very controversial figure after World War II and his decision to surrender to Nazi Germany in 1940. He spent six years in exile before requesting the Belgian Government to approve a law delegating royal powers to his son, Baudouin, then formally abdicated in 1951. See more »
Eleven points will bring you to 21 and you will be our new champion! Because of a disagreement with his commanding general, Ulysses S. Grant was virtually placed under arrest for a brief time early in 1862. Who was the commanding general of the Union army at that time? Tough question.
Charles Van Doren:
Just so oddly familiar.
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Charles Van Doren went to work for the Encyclopedia Britannica. Today he writes books and lives in the family home in Cornwall, Connecticut. He never taught again. See more »
Although `Quiz Show' is entirely concerned with morality and the nature of moral choices, I can't think of a single moment when it isn't obvious whether or not a character is doing the right thing. There are no moral dilemmas whatever. And a good thing too - thorny ethical issues would only turn it into an episode of `Star Trek'. If you think a film needs to be confused about right and wrong in order to be interesting, watch `Quiz Show' and realise your error.
Here's most of the ethics in a nutshell: the star contestants of a popular quiz show are cheating, with the connivance of the producers, the sponsor, and the network. That they shouldn't be cheating is never in dispute. The interesting questions are: Why are they cheating? and, What is it like for them, and how do they maintain dignity, when they're found out? Of course, in an intelligent character study like this there are plenty of other questions. I won't ruin your pleasure by giving away any of the answers. The best scenes, probably, are the ones in which a character must admit to someone or some group of people that he has cheated. All these scenes are very good and each is handled in a different way. But they're just cherries in a rich fruitcake. `Quiz Show' is one of my personal favourites. It was nominated for Best Picture of 1994 - an unusually fertile year - although the award went instead to some big dumb propaganda piece.
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