In today’s cynical world, we question pretty much everything on television and in the media. Even “reality” TV isn’t truly real, as producers and hosts manipulate real events to create maximum drama and characters. However, back in the 1950s audiences expected things like game shows to be on the up-and-up – which is why the story surrounding the fixing of Twenty One rocked the entertainment industry way back in 1956. The scandal surrounding the outcome of a match between Herbert Stempel and Charles Van Doren provided the source material for Robert Redford’s 1994 film Quiz Show, and now you can watch the entire original episode thanks to the magic of YouTube.
The basic gist of the story is that Stempel was forced to lose to Van Doren in the championship match in an attempt to improve the show’s ratings. After this happened, Stempel decided the public had a right to know their entertainment was being rigged, and he made the story public. This eventually helped pave the way for legislation regulating game shows to ensure they’re fair. Having spent two seasons as the Horror Geek on Comedy Central’s Beat the Geeks, I can tell you that Standards and Practices go to great lengths to ensure the integrity of the games today. Conversations between cast and crew on set during taping breaks were regularly monitored to make sure nothing improper was taking place.
John Turturro and Ralph Fiennes played Stempel and Van Doren in the film (which took some dramatic liberties with real events – sort of ironic when you think about it…), but if you ever wanted to see the actual episode that caused all the issues, you can check it out below. It’s not quite as exciting as watching that guy cheat Press Your Luck out of a hundred grand, but there’s no denying this episode of Twenty One’s historical importance. [via The Playlist]
Note: Pay particular attention to the end as Stempel prepares to lose. You can see it all over his face during that last question as he attempts to stretch it out as long as he can to absorb these last moments in the television spotlight.
And here's the trailer for Quiz Show.