Quiz, released on DVD by RLJ Entertainment, tells the story of the cheating scandal that rocked British television’s game show hit So You Want To Be A Millionaire. Shortly after the show’s creators had sold the franchise to the US a husband and wife were accused, and found guilty, of winning a million pounds through fraudulent means.
Major Charles Ingram (Mathew MacFadyen) and his wife Diana (Sian Clifford) are depicted as a fairly normal middle class British family. Yet, somehow, this typical couple supposedly cheated their way to a million pounds. While the couple still claim they were innocent, a jury and court found them guilty.
Quiz is a three part mini series that not only depicts the events surrounding the couple, but the creation of the game show, the brain child of Paul Smith (Mark Bonnar), and how people became obsessed with the show. Groups sprung up around the country who would devise methods of manipulating the audition system to increase their chances of being selected to appear on the show.
Of the Ingrams it’s the wife who comes across as obsessed with the idea of being on the show. Already a regular participant in pub quizzes, she thinks she’d be a natural fit. However, when she does manage to get on the show, she loses fairly quickly. Determined that someone in the family be a winner she pushes Charles into auditioning.
The show does a remarkable job of not only depicting the events surrounding their attempts to get on the show but how once Charles gets on the show a network of people all across the country attempt to feed him correct answers.
Indirectly, it also manages to make the point how these types of shows almost encourage this type of behaviour through their very existence. By praying on our base desires for what appears to be easy money they almost encourage people to come up with ways of cheating in order to win.
Quiz is remarkable for how much its able to pack into three episodes. Not only do we have Ingram’s preparations, for and appearance, on the show, they’ve managed to include the trial and the ensuing scandal as well.
Directed by Steven Frears the show is wonderfully paced and very convincing in its depiction of the events. Charles Ingram is not only an unlikely candidate to appear on the show, but an even more improbable winner.
We see him barely able to answer questions in his practices and not even being able to ring his practice buzzer as fast as most contestants. Yet somehow he keeps stumbling through round after round, changing his answers at the last moment, and always miraculously finding the correct response.
The depiction of him as a very unconvincing winner goes a long way towards convincing a jury of his guilt. The appearance of misdeed plays as big a role in convincing people he is guilty as any actual evidence.
The acting in Quiz is also superb with MacFadyen and Clifford doing wonderful jobs as the central characters. Michael Sheen as the host of the show, Chris Tarrant, is also a delight, but the cast across the board is tremendous.
Quiz takes us behind the scenes of one of the biggest scandals to rock modern game shows. Not only is it great entertainment, but it will make you think. What more could you ask for from a night television.