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>
In 1973's The Way We Were, the 'Robert Redford' character was defined by the phrase "everything came too easy." In 1994's Quiz Show (1994), directed by Redford, the Van Doren character used the same phrase about his own life. See more »
When Enright and Freedman attempt to convince Van Doren to appear on 21, they ask him how much does he think Bozo the Clown makes. Bozo's first TV show was in 1949 on Los Angeles's KTTV. However, Bozo did not gain national prominence until Larry Harmon established Bozo shows in various markets. The first was in LA in 1959, with the New York show also starting that year. Since Van Doren's conversation would have occurred in 1956, Bozo was not yet well known among adults or a high grossing star. 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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