While reality television has long been forced into quotations because of its manufactured truths, we as an audience expect more legitimacy from the game show format. Robert Redford‘s 1994 historical drama “Quiz Show” took this assumption and dismantled it through a focus on one pivotal TV program — “Twenty One” — and now the real-life episode where the whole scandal began is available for viewing.
Charles Van Doren and Herbert Stempel were two contestants chosen by “Twenty One” producer Dan Enright for the latest series of shows in 1956. By this point, the outcomes of the game — featuring each player answering questions via microphone in a soundproof booth — were almost entirely devised and mapped out. Stempel, the more bookish of the two, was forced to take a dive during his championship match with Van Doren due to sagging ratings, and following the ordeal he attempted to whistle-blow on the entire corrupt game show world of the time.
In Redford’s fantastic film, John Turturro and Ralph Fiennes play Stempel and Van Doren respectively, and of course the movie takes a great deal of dramatic license in making the controversy cinematic. For those who have already seen the film, you can now check out the entire rigged episode of “Twenty One” — which aired December 5, 1956 — below via Mental Floss. It’s a fascinating document of both hindsight and historical value. Check it out along with the trailer for Redford’s film.