I've been a nut about game shows ever since I was a kid (the good ones - I don't want to be bothered with something like Deal Or No Deal
or Moment of Truth
), and I've specifically been intrigued by the game show scandals of the 1950s. Game shows were really hot then - the reality shows of the 50s, really; several of them were on the air, they talked about and written about a lot, etc. - and several got caught in a cheating scandal, including Twenty-One
, and The $64,000 Question
. The Twenty-One
scandal was made into the Robert Redford movie Quiz Show
, but I've always wanted to hear an in-depth explanation of what happened from Charles Van Doren, the teacher-turned-game show winner at the heart of the scandal (that's him on the right in the pic, with challenger Vivienne Nearing and host Jack Barry). Now Van Doren has opened up to The New Yorker
in a piece that's long but well worth reading.
Van Doren doesn't really reveal anything too surprising (though I'm surprised to hear him say that producer Dan Enright didn't know about the cheating). But it's really great to hear his accurate, first person account of the events. Equally interesting are the parts about what happened to him away from the quiz show: the talks with his father, other shows he worked on, and the investigation that eventually started when former contestants blew the whistle on the shows. Van Doren also talks about how he felt when he (finally) saw Quiz Show. He even has an odd anecdote about meeting Ralph Fiennes, who played him in the movie.