Electronic Media Reviews -- the Quiz Show Scandal Produced by Julian Krainin and Michael R. Lawrence and Introduced by David McCullough

By Smith, F. Leslie | Journalism History, Autumn 1994 | Go to article overview

Electronic Media Reviews -- the Quiz Show Scandal Produced by Julian Krainin and Michael R. Lawrence and Introduced by David McCullough


Smith, F. Leslie, Journalism History


"The Quiz Show Scandal." Videocassette. Produced by Julian Krainin and Michael R. Lawrence. Program 409U of The American Experience. Alexandria: PBS Video, 1992. 0:57:35. 69.95.

Among the scandals that plagued broadcasting during the 1950s, one of the most interesting involved big-money prime-time TV quiz shows. As a result of the quiz show scandal, nineteen people were convicted for lying under oath, Congress amended the Communications Act, and the networks took program control away from sponsors. A 1994 feature-length film, Quiz Show, has renewed popular interest in the scandal but does take creative liberties. The Quiz Show Scandal, on the other hand, a 1992 historical documentary, is entertaining, interesting, and about as close as possible to an accurate video portrayal of the whole sordid affair.

Scandal begins by tracing development of big-money quiz shows from the 1955 sign-on of the first of the breed, The $64,000 Question, on CBS-TV. The prize money, the difficult questions, the suspense of the game, the gimmicky setting -- all helped make Question tremendously popular. Winning contestants were celebrities, even national heros. Naturally, Question spawned imitators, and big-money quiz shows eventually dominated the ratings.

Sponsors and producers were, from the very beginning, willing to use ethically questionable methods in dealing with contestants to improve program ratings. Scandal documents the escalation and eventual disclosure of these methods. On Twenty-One, for example, successful contestants were not only given questions and answers in advance but were also rehearsed on how to act nervous and tense when answering. …

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