Robert Redford directs the 1994 film Quiz Show, which tells the true story of the 1950’s Twenty-One quiz show scandals, where it was shown that NBC was rigging their game shows to bump up the ratings of their programs.
Producers Dan Enright (David Paymer) and Albert Freedman (Hank Azaria) are the minds behind Twenty-One, a popular game show. Their current champion, is Queens resident Herb Stempel (John Turturro), is starting to become unpopular with general audiences. They are shocked to find Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), a popular Columbia University teacher and author, also the son of a famous writer, shows up to audition. As a result, they pressure Stempel to take a dive and allow Van Doren to win.
Stempel does so, but soon loses all of his money to a bookie and then sues NBC. The lawsuit catches the attention of Richard Goodwin (Rob Morrow), a young Congressional lawyer who begins to investigate with the idea of taking on television.
Robert Redford likes his movies to slow-burn and it is no different with Quiz Show. It takes it’s time with the story, but it never once becomes boring. It sheds a light on the situation and is an odd testament against the entertainment industry. I would like to say that Morrow and Fiennes are the best in this movie. Their performances are what make the film steady and even.
My main problem with the film is the solution suggested. Not to sound insensitive, but I don’t care that this game show was rigging the system. The contestants knew and were paid handsomely. The channel had good ratings. The viewers were entertained. It seems the only thing the network was guilty of was false advertising. However, Morrow’s character, who (not to put a modern spin on it) is literally part of the deep state. His goal is take on the television. Why? There was no victim. The government had no business getting involved, yet they do and they are presented as the great saviors who will tame the wilds of the television industry.
Like I said, the game show producers did act a bit slimy by intimidating witnesses, padding the courts with their friends, and engaging in false advertising. Those problems needed to be addressed, but again, so what? The government did not need to pass laws to address the problem. The viewers could have answered by changing the channel, but this shows Hollywood’s bias even back in the 90s. The crusading overpaid government bureaucrat (who’s also un-elected) comes in to save America from those naughty TV producers. Even back to a time when I was still in elementary school, Hollywood was already changing history with the silver screen.
FAVORITE QUOTE: I asked myself, “why would he do this, he knows I’ll come after him?” Then it occurred to me. He knows I’ll come after him.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Some strong language
Check out the trailer below:
That is my review. What did you think? Let me know in the comments below and tell me if there’s a movie you’d like me to review. Check out my thoughts on the film Bullet To The Head. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.