Monday, November 2, 2015
Quiz Show (1994)
The first show, CBS's "The $64,000 Question," was apparently on the level. But across the street at NBC's "Twenty-One" executives and sponsors watched the ratings, and realized that some contestants drew more viewers than others. A grating know-it-all named Herbert Stempel won for weeks on "Twenty-One," partly, if not mostly, because he was being given the answers. The executives decided his appeal was wearing thin. So they broke the news to him: He'd had a free ride long enough, and now it was time to lose.
Stempel took that news very badly. He was, after all, known as a smart guy by all that knew him. His success was believable, even if it was faked. Unfortunately, America liked his successor, an attractive, disarming intellectual named Charles Van Doren, who was a member of one of America's great literary families: his father, Mark, and his uncle, Philip, were beloved and respected. He was also well known to be smart. Blinded not so much by money as by fame, Charles had agreed to cheat. And when Stempel blew the whistle on the whole setup, a Congressional investigator brought the deception tumbling down. But to very little fanfare. A well chronicled story and an entertaining movie.