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October 22, 2014

Charles Van Doren finally opens up about the game show scandal

by Bob Sassone, posted Aug 7th 2008 6:03PM
Twenty-OneI'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, Dotto, 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.

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Mark "The Hobo" Watson

Twenty One was one of the best game shows that had been airing on free television during the 1950s. It was a cultural revolution that broke the game-show barrier.

August 09 2008 at 12:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark "The Hobo" Watson

Maury Povich hosted the 21st century adaptation of Twenty One in 2000, filling in Jack Barry's shoes.

August 09 2008 at 8:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Edd

Thanks, good read. I loved Quiz Show and appreciate hearing Van Doren speak

August 07 2008 at 8:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Edd

I loved Quiz Show and I'm off to read the article. Thx for the heads-up!

August 07 2008 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JBCheese

This was a great article but youre a little late to the party this story was published 2 weeks ago.

August 07 2008 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to JBCheese's comment
Steve Young

Great read, thanks for posting this story.

August 07 2008 at 7:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jk

And a comment exactly like yours was posted whatever ago.

August 07 2008 at 9:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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