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 the film Dick Goodwin mentions that the Reuben Sandwich as being the only "truly invented" sandwich in the world and he credits a Reuben K (actual name Reuben Kulakofsky) as having invented it. It was entered into a national sandwich competition in 1956 by a Fern Snider. Truth is that the inventor of the sandwich is unknown and the recipe goes back to about 1908 which is about 20 years before Mr Kulakosky first invented it. See more »
Herb Stempel while at home says that Gutenberg invents the printing press, however Gutenberg invented movable type for a printing press. See more »
[In his office, Dan Enright has just told Herb Stempel that he submitted a list of 45 names for a panel show on NBC. The network had rejected three of those 45 names and Herb was one of those three names that they had rejected]
That big, uncircumcised putz is on the cover of Time Magazine and I can't even make the top 42 for a panel show.
See more »
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 »
The network version of "Quiz Show" uses replacement footage in two places. They are:
In the scene where Dan is telling Herb that he has to take a dive, the line "Look, don't start believing your own bullshit, all right? You wouldn't know the name of Paul Revere's horse if he took a shit on your lawn!" is changed to "Look, don't start believing your own bull, all right? You wouldn't know the name of Paul Revere's horse if he took a nap on your lawn!"
When Herb is talking to Dan about getting a panel show, Herb's line "You get me that panel show, or I'm gonna bring you down with me, you lousy lyin' prick! You and Charles Van Fucking Doren!" is changed to "You get me that panel show, or I'm gonna bring you down with me, you lousy lyin' pig! You and Charles Van Friggin Doren!"
TV's age of innocence ended with Quiz Show scandal...
Robert Redford's brilliant direction and a quartet of expert performances make QUIZ SHOW a highly interesting, thought-provoking experience. Unfortunately, the end of TV innocence in the '50s brought us other game shows in recent years and real life survivor series that are guilty of shortcomings just as egregious in other ways but not to be discussed here. Manners and morals began a fast decline in the late '50s and only got worse with each decade, in my opinion.
The real-life story of Professor Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), son of a famous scholar, Mark Van Doren (Paul Scofield) is told in a lively and detailed way with many sights and sounds of the '50s making the atmosphere look very authentic. When the less than charming winner of a TV show, Herb Stempel (John Turturro) is dumped in favor of the more charismatic Charles Van Doren, the story goes swiftly through a series of expertly written scenes in which all of the behind-the-scenes goings on are revealed and characterizations are sharply defined. In truth, the ratings game between Van Doren and Herb Stempel went on for many weeks before a showdown was reached.
An especially touching scene shows Charles wanting to reveal to his father the truth about his upcoming appearance before an investigative committee--relaxing as the two have an informal midnight snack in the kitchen, but unable to tell his father (played to perfection by Paul Scofield) who is a symbol of unwavering integrity. In fact, Scofield is so good in his supporting role that it's a pity the script didn't expand his role to give him more screen time.
John Turturro as Herb Stempel has the unfortunate task of appearing to be an obnoxious nerd, whose only redeeming moment comes at the end of the film when he realizes how destroyed Charles Van Doren is by the revelations. He never tries to make the character anything less than the boorish, self-absorbed fool he is and does an excellent job. Rob Morrow is sometimes less than convincing as the tenacious investigator.
Despite its lengthy running time, it all moves along at a brisk pace under Robert Redford's outstanding direction. Well worth your time, although I can't say television has raised the bar very much since its fall from grace, especially with regard to daytime talk or game shows. Are audiences any wiser today? Maybe only Regis Philbin knows...
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