Quiz Show

“Fifty million people watched, but no one saw a thing.” Quiz Show is a film based off the true story of Charles Van Doren, a literature professor and writer, who along with the producer and network lied to the world. Week after week he was given the answers to all the questions on the popular television show Twenty-One. This film has everything to do with the morals people follow and how it led to the corruption of the men. When Herbert Stempel starts marking a fuss about how he was asked to take a dive for the show he grabbed the attention of Goodwin, a young lawyer, who became determined to expose the corruption. Goodwin, in his research, discovers that Herbie has also been given answers for the show, even though it didn’t occur that he had participated in the show the same way as Van Doren. None of the men involved in the show ever questioned the morality of the show and their choices until they were found out or lost it all.


The main theme in the film is dishonesty. Not only is Charlie dishonest to his family and the world, he was dishonest with himself. The media is dishonest with the public. The scandal proves to the public that they can’t believe everything they hear especially when it comes to media. They make you believe what will get them higher ratings and more money. It is ironic that this is a game show because instead of the contestants playing each other, they are playing the audience.


A second theme in the film is fame. The fame and fortune that comes along with being a consecutive winner on the show becomes addicting and when Herbert Stempel get that taken away he does what he can to bring Charles Van Doren, Dan and the rest of the show down. Fame is an addiction for the show and the contestants that they feature. Van Dorena and Stempel get so caught up in all of the money and the attention they are receiving, they actually believe their own lies. When Stempel is walking home after one of fhe airings, he is greeted by people coming up to him and leaning out their windows praising him. He tells his wife that he loves people knowing who he is.  Van Doren purposely waits in his car when going somewhere until a large crowd is in his path so they will give him attention.


There are many references to anti-Semitism in this film between Stempel and Van Doren and how they are treated and their views of one another. Stempel was referred to having a “radio face” due to his Jewish characteristics and was said to not bring in as many viewers and Van Doren, a Christian. The producer tells Van Doren that Stempel was too Jewish for the show.


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