Twenty-One

Quiz Show answers all the right questions. 1994 was another really good year for Best Picture nominees that included Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and deserving winner Forrest Gump. Quiz Show doesn’t have the same dedicated following, but it is underrated in comparison. It helps that I’m already a fan of game shows like Jeopardy. Based on the 1950’s quiz show scandals, Quiz Show is practically director Robert Redford’s answer to All the President’s Men. I had no idea TV game shows nearly ended with the exposure of Twenty-One. A quiz show revealed to be giving answers and coaching contestants for ratings, fame, and financial gain.

Quiz Show keeps things tense and fast-paced with great writing and acting. John Turturro plays the nerdy Jewish contestant Herb Stempel who’s forced to take a dive on an easy question. Even I knew Marty won Best Picture in 1955. Questions of anti-semitism arise when Stempel is intentionally replaced by the handsome English teacher Charles Van Doren. Ralph Fiennes manages to keep Van Doren likeable with his initial hesitation to accept the answers. Charles lives in his father’s shadow and Paul Scofield earned another Oscar nomination because of it.

Christopher McDonald is the perfect smarmy game show host and David Paymer is just right for the villainous producer Dan Enright. Hank Azaria also shows up as one of the other producers. Actor Robert Redford ironically directs director Martin Scorsese with a brief, but memorable performance. Quiz Show doesn’t have a specific lead, but Rob Morrow comes close when he opens up an investigation into Twenty-One. Both Dick Goodwin and his wife played by a young Mira Sorvino are smart enough to know the competition is rigged. It’s just a matter of gathering evidence and contestants who are willing to admit they cheated. Quiz Show keeps you invested like any good quiz show should.

Quiz Show

Jack Barry welcomes Herb Stempel and Charles Van Doren on Twenty-One

4 thoughts on “Twenty-One

  1. Ah, the scandal that rocked the world of TV back in the day, a really solid film. I still think some game shows today might be rigged, but I think after what happened in that trial, those game show producers are extra careful. The Simpsons also parodied this in an episode when Homer revealed his childhood home was won on a crooked 1950’s game show and Grandpa says “I ratted on everyone and got off scot free!”

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