QUIZ SHOW
DIRECTOR: ROBERT REDFORD
USA 1994
CINEMATOGRAPHY: MICHAEL BALLHAUS
MUSIC: MARK ISHAM
CAST: Ralph Fiennes, Rob Morrow, John Torturo, David Paymer, Christopher MacDonald, Paul Scofield, WRITTEN BY: Based on Richard Goodwin's book.
ONE WORD: The acting is outstanding.


It is hard to accept that the TV game shows that we catch just about every night, are not rigged. But, then, maybe there are some who can really answer so many questions. This film is about one famous case where the TV show business did get checked out. But, as Richard Goodwin points out, "we didn't get them, they got us.".

Hollywood, by experience and power, has learned to play the game, in the legal system as well. Their product is entertainment, and they make no bones about it. And the real losers in the process are the players, who may, or may not win anything in the process.

Herbert Stempel, was a winner for a long time, and he states that some of the answers were handed him, if not directly, at least in a way that was meant to give the illusion that the person was thinking. One wonders what these games would be like if they did offer real questions for real contestants, without the benefit of the free answers. Herbert was supplanted by Charles VanDoren, who was the child of a family of popular writers, whose main goal in life had always been to try and make a living away from the parental shadow. And since the ratings are good, and the money keeps pouring in, Charles always stays on top.

In the process, Robert Goodwin, finds that there is something to be checked out in these shows. And he happens to notice that none of the contestants say anything to the media, or anyone, under oath, or presumably, under a large percent of their earned money. Until, one day, he finally comes across Herbert Stempel, who has been denied his due process of law, facing immeasurable odds, against a legal system that favors the more established lawyers and judges. And, finally, the big network does get itself into the halls of congress, but what could become a serious problem turns into a joke, as the congress does not have the answers to the very clever Dan Enright. And Dan was right. It was entertainment, and it was all about ratings and keeping the show number one in the face of competition. Charles was more attractive than Herbert, and he carried a nice idea and notion for the viewership.

The ending, is what makes this film worth while, even if the viewers are the real losers. One day someone is liked, the next another person is liked, and the choice lies not in the results, but in the face of the viewership that pretty much keeps these shows running.

Well written, and beautifully acted, this show carries much strength, even if it is meant as a battle for the power of what was, then, network television. And how it manipulated the public tastes.

Congress is impressed by Charles's understanding and apologies, but he does not come up with a proper answer to the society that fed on him. He was given a chance to help a machine make money, but when it did not suit his needs any longer, and it bothered him, he quit. And the machine did not do much for him in the process. He becomes another victim, just like Herbert Stempel, trying to cope with the justification of cheating.

With a magnificent cast, and brilliant direction, this film stands out, even if one thinks that it is slow in the early going. Still, a must see, just to understand how a network can mold its control, and make money in the process.

4 GIBLOONS

 

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