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Critic's Pick

'Quiz Show '

November 19, 1995|Kenneth Turan

It is a special triumph that this 1994 film, directed by Robert Redford and written by Paul Attanasio, turns a footnote of television--the fuss surrounding the rigged TV shows of the late '50s--into a thoughtful drama about the moral ambiguity of evil. Sticking moderately closely to the facts and using real names whenever possible, it succeeds by looking at the situation through an unexpectedly subtle and wide-ranging lens. "Twenty-One's" most celebrated contestant, professor and golden boy Charles Van Doren, is beautifully played by Ralph Fiennes. But "Quiz Show" succeeds as well as it does because it is structured to make Van Doren's story only part of a whole. Attanasio examines the peculiarly American quality that Van Doren, congressional investigator Richard Goodwin (Rob Morrow) and disgruntled former contestant Herbert Stempel (John Turturro) unknowingly share: a feeling of being unappreciated, on the outside of the Big Dream (Showtime Saturday at 8 p.m.).

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