By Nick Gonzales
Herald staff writer
In the modern wasteland of reality television, I like to think few people would be surprised to find out that their favorite shows – purporting to present actual events – are actually staged.
In the 1950s, however, this was not necessarily the case, and Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show” presents a spectacular tale of deception in this much simpler time.
“Quiz Show” begins as Herb Stempel (John Turturro), a nebbish working-class genius, is paid by the network to take a dive on the game show “Twenty-One” in favor of Ivy League WASP Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes). As Van Doren rises to stardom while being fed answers, enterprising attorney Richard Goodwin (Rob Morrow) begins an investigation into networks’ practices.
For a film about a relatively dry subject – the moral compasses of game show producers and contestants – “Quiz show” gives audiences a lot to think about. Are TV shows that bill themselves as “reality” obligated to remain authentic? And are fame and fortune worth engaging in dubiously moral behavior?
Redford’s direction in “Quiz Show” is top notch, bringing 1957 into vivid clarity. Fiennes shines in one of his first starring roles, especially when cast against a delightfully annoying Turturro.
While the movie’s messages and plot twists were not necessarily surprising when it came out in 1994, it is still an interesting look into the entertainment industry. At the very least, it will make you pause and wonder next time you sit down to watch “Jeopardy.”