7.5/10
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167 user 65 critic

Quiz Show (1994)

A young lawyer, Richard Goodwin, investigates a potentially fixed game show. Charles Van Doren, a big time show winner, is under Goodwin's investigation.

Director:

Robert Redford

Writers:

Paul Attanasio (screenplay), Richard N. Goodwin (book)
Reviews
Popularity
4,705 ( 153)

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ON DISC
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 28 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Turturro ... Herbie Stempel
Rob Morrow ... Dick Goodwin
Ralph Fiennes ... Charles Van Doren
Paul Scofield ... Mark Van Doren
David Paymer ... Dan Enright
Hank Azaria ... Albert Freedman
Christopher McDonald ... Jack Barry
Johann Carlo ... Toby Stempel
Elizabeth Wilson ... Dorothy Van Doren
Allan Rich ... Robert Kintner
Mira Sorvino ... Sandra Goodwin
George Martin ... Chairman
Paul Guilfoyle ... Lishman
Griffin Dunne ... Account Guy
Michael Mantell ... Pennebaker
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 October 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Kviz See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$31,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$757,714, 16 September 1994, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$24,822,619
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Mark Van Doren: If you look around the table and you can't tell who the sucker is, it's you.
See more »

Crazy Credits

NBC and Geritol were never implicated in the quiz show scandals. See more »

Connections

Referenced in BoJack Horseman: Let's Find Out (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

MACK THE KNIFE
Written by Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht and Marc Blitzstein
Performed by Bobby Darin
Courtesy of Atco Records
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

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User Reviews

Polished and professional drama
15 June 2002 | by bob the mooSee 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.


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