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Quiz Show (1994) Movie Review

Game shows that test your mind, like Who Wants to Be A Millionaire or Jeopardy, have been around for quite a while now. They have been the premiering standards for testing our intellectual capabilities with questions ranging from general knowledge to logic.

Allegations of cheating by the contestants are not new, like the Charles Ingram scandal in 2001 that went on to have its documentary. However, his controversy wasn't the first one, and during the 1950s, millions of people were shocked when the same thing happened.

Plot Overview

Quiz Show is a historical drama film about the Twenty-One quiz show scandals during the 1950s.

The movie starts when the questions and answers for the latest broadcast of the popular NBC TV Show Twenty-One are transported from a secure vault to the studio. The newest contestant and reigning champion, Herb Stempel, nailed all the answers correctly. The show's sponsor, Gentol, begins to fear that the approval ratings are starting to level out. They need to find another contestant to solve the matter.

The show producers Dan Enright and Albert Freedman set their eyes on Columbia University instructor Charles Van Doren to be the new participant in their game show. They offer to ask the same questions during Van Doren's audition, but he refuses. However, when a 21-point question was on the line, he was asked the same and answered correctly. Meanwhile, Stempel deliberately misses an easy question because he was promised a future in television.

Van Doren quickly rose to fame by continuously winning the competition. However, his manner of getting nervous under pressure allows the show's producers to give him the answers beforehand. Herb Stempel gets broke and begins threatening NBC because they still haven't completed their promise. Meanwhile, Richard Goodwin, a young lawyer, begins his investigation of rumors about rigged quiz shows and visits a few former contestants.


Quiz Show is a movie that brought in the talents of John Turturro, Ralph Fiennes, Rob Morrow, and many more. Surprisingly, the great director, Martin Scorsese, has a minor role in this film. I was blown away when I saw him acting and not directing in the film.

This film is pretty interesting and underrated. It's a piece of history that explains our media's powerful capabilities to twist viewers' minds by focusing on viewership ratings and approvals. The movie presents a bit about how they can manipulate an entertaining reality show into a fictional construct diverted to increase our satisfaction. The ones that they controlled were those with the brightest minds.

While there are some inaccuracies to the original events, Quiz Show remained truthful to the general concept of the 1950s scandal.

I like the performance of John Turturro, who plays an intelligent but naive contestant. His acting is on-point and realistic.

Overall, Quiz Show is a must-see film if you want to learn more about the history of these intellectual game shows and how the power of the media twists and fabricates to give more entertainment.

A good 4 out of 5 stars.

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