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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Herb Stempel's son was an infant at the time of the quiz show scandal. Stempel had been trying to tell people that the show was fixed long before he lost his run, but he was ignored. In May 1958, the CBS game show Dotto (1958) was exposed as rigged. When Stempel published his accusations in August 1958, people paid attention. See more »
The microphone on the Today Show desk is an Argonne AR-57, a Japanese imitation of the RCA 77C, which wasn't manufactured until the 1960's. It's also extremely unlikely that NBC, which at the time was owned by RCA, would be using an imitation of an RCA product. 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!"
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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