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Quiz Show (1994)

PG-13 | | Drama, History | 7 October 1994 (USA)
A young lawyer, Richard Goodwin, investigates a potentially fixed game show. Charles Van Doren, a big time show winner, is under Goodwin's investigation.



(screenplay), (book)
1,582 ( 442)

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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 26 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dan Enright
Johann Carlo ...
Toby Stempel
George Martin ...
Account Guy


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 <horrigan@hanover-crrel.army.mil>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Fifty million people watched, but no one saw a thing.


Drama | History

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

7 October 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Kviz  »

Box Office


$31,000,000 (estimated)


$24,822,619 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Early in the film, when someone says that "There's a rumor Eisenhower died," Charles Van Doren's mother, Dorothy, quips, "How would they tell?" This is actually a quote from Dorothy Parker, the American writer and poet, which she said when she heard that former President Calvin Coolidge had died in January 1933. See more »


The call letters on the TV cameras are WNBT. New York's NBC affiliate changed its call letters from WNBT to WRCA in 1954, 3 years before the Van Doren streak. See more »


Dick Goodwin: Excuse me. Do you think he might see me before the peacock molts?
Kintner's Secretary: Who are you with again?
Dick Goodwin: I'm with the United States Congress. Perhaps you've heard of them.
See more »

Crazy Credits

No.1 Mom.......Katherine Turturro See more »


Referenced in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch: Quiz Show (1998) See more »


Written by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz
See more »

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User Reviews

Polished and professional drama
15 June 2002 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The ratings of 1950's quiz show `21' are in freefall due to the dominance of dorky Jew Herbie Stempel. The sponsors and network owners put pressure o the producers to replace him. When WASP Charles Van Doren comes to audition for another show they offer to ask him the questions that he already answered at the practice. Herbie is told to take a dive and Van Doren becomes an audience draw. However when Herbie starts making noise about a fix, a congress employee, Dick Goodwin, decides to go after the network.

This is a glossy, professional piece of work that sadly was never as huge as hit as it deserved to be (probably not enough explosions for the US audience). The story is based on a true story that happened in the 50's and it's used here partly as a bit of history but also as a look at television in terms of it's most basic desire to sell and entertain at any costs – if that means fixing shows or getting the `right' ethnic groups on screen then s be it. It is effective on that level because it's hard to imagine anything has changed since 1950. The actual human drama comes between Van Doren and Stempel – the film makes them both real people, neither good nor bad but having a bit of both.

Turturro is the best thing in this film. His Herbie has so many levels which he must touch throughout and he does them all well – whether it's humour, pride, anger or realisation. Fiennes is good but at times I did find it hard to be sympathetic with a WASP born into a lofty family who gets more given to him. That said Fiennes did him well. Morrow was a strange choice – famous at the time for Northern Exposure, he does a weird performance here – almost doing an impression of what he thinks a tough Noo Yark investigator would be like. The supporting cast is filled out with quality so deep that even the extras are famous now! (Calista Flockhart turns up briefly). David Palmer and Hank Azaria are good as 21's producers, Christopher Mcdonald is good as the host – people like Griffin Dunne, Mira Sorvino, Timothy Busefield and Barry Levinson come and go, and Martin Scorsese has a wicked role as the money behind the scandal.

It works on many levels – at it's most basic it is a true story of great interest, at best it lets you see how television works and how men with money can rarely be reached for any wrong doing. Working on so many levels this is a polished professional drama that involves from start to finish.

42 of 62 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Why Lie About Van Doren "Never" Teaching Again? Master_Voorhees
Rob Morrow miscast? j-scott-adams
has the distribution of this movie been supressed since it's release? robtromp
Did anyone else find Charles van Doren's(Fiennes) smile annoying? lgforce
The real Best Picture, 1994 cdrw74minutes
Ruben Sandwich cann85
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