Review of “Quiz Show” (1994)

Review of

Courtesy of IMBD

Mimi Beringer, visual editor

This week I watched “Quiz Show”, a documentary drama about the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. Specifically, Quiz Show covers the rigging of the then-popular quiz show “Twenty-One”, where contestant Herb Stempel, played by John Turturro, finds popularity among viewers and the media after a successful winning streak. After he is replaced with a more charismatic contestant, Charles van Doren, played by Ralph Fiennes, Stempel tries to target the network and expose that the game is rigged. Dick Goodwin, a congressional investigator, slowly unravels Stempel’s arguments, and the scandal unfolds.

What I really enjoyed about watching this movie is that the quiz show scandals are an event in history I was not familiar with. Usually watching a documentary drama you already know what is going to happen, because if it happened already in real life, chances are, you learned about it in school. However, I had never heard about the quiz show scandals of the 1950s, so watching this film was exciting.

“Quiz Show” was directed by Robert Redford and Paul Attanasio. In total, there were four nominations for Academy Awards for “Quiz Show”, including Best Picture. It certainly deserves its high rating, with remarkable acting that was plenty convincing and transformative. Through subtle details, the film was surprisingly chock full of beautiful cinematic shots that capture the energy of the late 1950s, which avoided any exaggerations of the setting.

It didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat; in fact, I had to watch this film over a period of two days. I found it super interesting, but to be able to fully take in what was going on, I found it easier to put it down then pick it back up later. The pacing is slow at times, but I kept watching because I was so fascinated with the story and watching the conspiracy be revealed.

I would definitely recommend this movie for anyone wanting to learn more about a lesser-talked about but still interesting part of our country’s history. I was so inspired after watching that I went and watched an old episode of American Experience on PBS that was about the quiz show scandals so I could learn more about the context for the story in “Quiz Show” and similar stories. Putting the learning aside, if you want to sit back and experience a great story, this movie is definitely for you.