Time: 133 mins.
Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Scofield), Director, Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.
How the American public can be surprised when so-called reality shows don't exactly tell the truth is beyond me. As Redford shows in this engrossing tale about the "Twenty-One" scandal in the late 1950s, it's been going on since the dawn of television. What becomes clear from watching this story unfold is that nothing has changed in the small screen world over the last 50 years. Producers are still manipulating shows to get big ratings and there are plenty of average Americans willing to do just about anything for fame and money. In the case of this particular scandal, it wasn't the fact that it happened that was so shocking, but who participated in the lies. Why would a man like Charles Van Doren (Fiennes), an Ivy League professor from a wealthy, upstanding family, be part of such a scheme?
It's pretty clear what the network and the show's sponsors are getting in return for their behavior oodles of cash. What makes the story interesting is the motivations of the various contestants they seduce into going along with the charade. Rob Morrow plays the investigator trying to expose the network's fraudulent game show practices. His bulldog spirit is sparked when the latest unstoppable contestant, a nebishy Jew played brilliantly by Turturro, misses a painfully obvious question, making Van Doren, a high brow WASP, the new American television sensation.
Fiennes gives an enchantingly subtle performance as the man who seems to have everything, yet risks it all for his own chance in the spotlight. It's an intelligently written morality play about the allure of easy money and instant fame. Though the events that unfold occurred over 50 years ago, they serve as a poignant reminder for all those suckered in by the current reality show craze about the price of those dreams. Redford captures this time in American history perfectly, from the clothes to the class struggles to the set of "Twenty-One." QUIZ SHOW proves to be somewhat ahead of it's time. Our society may look different in the 21st century, but one look at the television schedule reveals the human race hasn't really changed at all. A well-made drama even Morrow's laughable fake accent can't ruin.