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Netflix Daily Pick: Playing Smart in ‘Quiz Show’ (1994)

Today's pick is a look behind the controversy of a corrupt TV show.

Quiz Show is a 1994 biographical drama about a young lawyer who investigates a potentially fixed game show and the charismatic big winner caught up in the scheme.

Today’s Netflix Pick is a delicious historical drama that delves into a seedy part of early television game shows. Starring Ralph Fiennes and John Turturro, it’s a surprisingly tense thriller as well as a great character study of three very different men during a time of great cultural and political shifts. A critically acclaimed film and directed by one of cinema’s most admired statesmen, this a terrific night at the movies. It’s Quiz Show and it’s what you’re watching tonight. Here’s why.

Quiz Show
Quiz Show, 1994 © Baltimore Pictures

THE STORY: Directed by Robert Redford, it charts the downfall of a popular television game show called Twenty-One. When the ratings for current champion Herbert Stempel (John Turturro) plateaus, the producers look to make a change and find their replacement in handsome university professor Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), the son of a famous poet and writer. The problem is, the producers can’t take a risk that Stempel can be beat without help and so make arrangements to help Van Doren win. They cheat. Upset by the aftermath, even though he’s complicit in the deal, Stempel raises a stink and soon a Harvard lawyer (Rob Morrow) begins poking around. What he finds changes the face of TV entertainment.

READ MORE: That Moment In Quiz Show when Father and Son Talk Over Cake

Quiz Show
Quiz Show, 1994 © Baltimore Pictures

WHY YOU NEED TO WATCH: The dynamic between the three main characters is almost enough to watch all by itself, with all three giving very impactful performances, especially Turturro who transforms himself into Stempel. But there are also some very strong supporting players here, with the legendary Paul Scofield as Charles’ father Mark (in an Oscar-nominated turn) as well as David Paymer as a producer of the show caught in the machine. Redford was also nominated for Best Director and it’s easy to see why, threading a tightly-wound story around such compelling characters. Quiz Show is an exciting look behind the scenes of one television’s darkest hours. It’s streaming on Netflix right now.

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