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GREAT MOVIES GUYS WON'T OTHERWISE SEE -- Quiz Show
In 1928, the British gave us an invention that proved to be a world-changer. The Germans would take said invention and make it even better. This invention would be called the television. Greater society would panic as it was now possible to view affairs always deemed secretive and personal -- from your own home many continents away. There was a great desire, just as with all inventions, to keep the status quo intact. Our parents were among the first parents in world history in the 70s and 80s to have to deal with movies, music and video games that were violent, had profanity, and plenty of boobies. It was a nightmare for single moms who had married roundabout goof-offs, and who thus now had kids with half their DNA. Little did they know that the advent of the truly graphic piece of pop performance art would prove to be the very thing that kept them from putting firecrackers in frogs mouths, and keep their daughters from selling "feels". The R-rated movie did more then just rivet, it taught children to be fearful of their surroundings. Despite what the religious right tells you, television's off-the-wall evolution would serve to sincerely help -- even raise -- said figity deliquent future hubpages.com writers. The reason is that in the 50s, there came an impasse...NBC would be caught presenting fiction as actual stone cold FACT...and had they been able to get away with this, we would be subjected to a world today that is even worse then the way it had been then. It was no coincidence that television's mass popularity coincided with Brown vs. Board of Education and the Civil Rights movement. It would take Michael Jackson coming around in order for black people to appear en masse on television let alone in a halfway positive light, but there is no doubt that television speeded up this process, and there is only one man on this planet that we have to thank for that...a Harvard graduate and former White House speechwriter for Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson named Richard Goodwin.
"Quiz Show" is the story about how Richard Goodwin would uncover a phenomenon that kept broadcasted truth manipulated. The game show "Twenty-One" was a quiz show that might as well have been called "Are You Smarter Then Anyone Who Has Ever Been On Jeopardy?" People outside yourself actually once used to read the printed word. Full novels. Newspapers. They used to order subscriptions to newsletters like the Saturday Evening Post. Comic books were just above gum wrappers as far as valued sources of literacy, when today I'll bet most parents would kill to have a child who can follow and get through one.
"Twenty One" had a simple strategy -- they gave the contestants the questions in advance, and continuously looked for future contestants that were "valued" more. The show was sponsored by Geritol, which is a medicine people used to take that would work a bit like five-hour energy. Continuously trying to suck up to the Geritol representatives was a man named Dan Enright who would, twenty years later, go on to reinvent himself in the wake of the scandal to soon come, by creating the show "The Joker's Wild". In the 50s, he catered to two aspects and two aspects only -- Caucasians and money.
Twenty-One originally had a winning contestant named Herb Stempel, a Jewish dude whose only crime was being both Jewish and having one or two bad teeth in a mouthful that contains forty. Stempel had enthusiasm, and became a champion of the people during a run from 1956 to 1957 in which he won almost two hundred thousand dollars just creaming everybody. Yet he was cheating.
Enright would discover a new contestant -- Charles Van Doren. It was hardly an ingenious discovery...for he recognized Van Doren immediately upon first seeing him. Charles Van Doren was a good looking white dude who belonged to one of the most prominent intellectual families in America during a time when that meant something. His mother, father and uncle were all famous poets and authors. His father Mark Van Doren was a Pulitzer-Prize winner who was in the running for his second one thanks to an autobiography on Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of the Scarlet Letter. That's right...we're talking about a time, the late 50s, when you could be famous for being a poet, famous for being an autobiographer, famous for being a popular literature and english instructor at Columbia University. Young Charles was a young professor at Columbia as well, lived in the family house into his early 30s, didn't have a girlfriend, but women all wanted to do him regardless. Basically, Charles Van Doren, the man who will be used to replace Herb Stempel, was beloved for doing absolutely nothing.
Van Doren, like Stempel, went right ahead with the scam. Stempel was replaced, and Van Doren would go on a run that eclipsed him, pissing Stempel off to no end. Enright originally tried to make Stempel calm down and get off his back by promising him his own panel show, only to recind the offer once he was out of his hair. Ratings were off the chart for "Twenty One", Van Doren would make the cover of Time Magazine, and Enright and his cohorts smirked and patted their own backs. Yet Stempel would throw a legal fit and get a court to investigate what was up. They would keep the findings out of the papers...
Meanwhile in Washington, a young man who had graduated first in his class at Harvard Law School named Richard Goodwin would be sitting in the stacks in the offices of the National Subcommittee On Legislative Oversight looking for a challenge. As the people around him scoffed, Goodwin would read the New York Times while they all read the Post because "The New York Times is a paper of record". They'd go ooooooo. In the movie, one of them would say "Rick hopes to one day be confused for an important person". Goodwin would uncover something interesting...a trial judge was keeping the findings of Stempel's accusations secret...while presiding over a committee that was DESIGNED TO MAKE FINDINGS PUBLIC. Hmmmm...what are they hiding...
Goodwin would deliver the pitch to his bosses -- finally at long last we have a case that has some teeth. Goodwin felt bad about the idea of pursuing a case that would expand their careers while exploiting others, and so they would approach this in a way where the base requirements entailed NOT EXPOSING ANY INDIVIDUAL PERSON. Goodwin despised McCarthyism...yet he understood that it could possibly take different forms. Leave it to the first in his class at Harvard Law to see that when people lash out against a form of paranoia that exposes, that the next logical step would be that it suppresses.
And so Goodwin comes to New York to talk to and help out Herb Stempel, and that's when a series of obstacles jump in his way. In order to expose the lie on Twenty-One, Goodwin had to deal with one surprise after another -- such as that Stempel, all the while bitching that Van Doren was being given the answers, recieved the answers himself. Next up was dealing with a nervous Charles Van Doren who promptly invites him to a Sunday afternoon gathering at the family house because he knows that it will only cast doubt over his guilt once he meets a family that couldn't stop being naturally well-read and witty if they tried.
Goodwin talks this over with his wife. "Why would Charles Van Doren jeopardize everything he has by cheating on a quiz show?"
His wife asks him -- "Everything he has? Such as?"
"Honey," Goodwin says, "He's on the cover of Time Magazine."
"Well he's not going to make the cover of Time by being Mark Van Doren's son, Dick."
It's the line that will make Goodwin proceed into this investigation with newfound gusto.
He continues to watch reels of old shows, hours and hours of them for days and weeks...until finding something very interesting...an artist named James Snograss would decide not to play ball during an episode in which he was supposed to tank a question like Stempel and Van Doren had. Snograss had stunned the host at that moment in the show, the host fully expecting him to answer the question wrong. And so Goodwin goes looking for Snograss.
Snograss, unlike the other former contestants, will be DELIGHTED when Goodwin shows up. He promptly hands Goodwin an envelope containing the questions and the answers featured on the episode he was on...with one little extra cherry...Snograss had sent this envelope to himself two days before he appeared, thereby Goodwin was soon able to walk into a very arrogant and condescending Enright's studio with an envelope postmarked for June 9th...containing questions and answers for a JUNE 11th SHOW!!!!
Bye Bye Enright. Better talk to your family.
Enright tries to bribe his way out of this by offering Goodwin his own panel show -- Goodwin laughed and told him I'll get back to you, Dan.
Goodwin, this whole time, will try very hard not to incriminate either Stempel or Van Doren. He would thus watch as a panel of judges called Stempel the cheat and not Van Doren, for "Van Doren comes from a family with....all these guys...isn't it possible that YOU got the answers and Van Doren didn't?"
Goodwin's wife is furious at him. Having the Quiz Show hearings without Van Doren having to appear is like having "Hamlet without Hamlet".
It is finally at long last a matter of conscience that brings Van Doren to the courtroom to admit his guilt. He is met by almost universal understanding and compassion, except for one judge, a Jewish dude, who thinks that a man of his intelligence has no business getting praise for simple proving not to having the necessary fortitude to keep his indiscretions private.
Television would win, but they would most certainly change, giving way to a media that was steadfast in making sure it was truth that you saw, and truth that they had intended on finding.
Because Dan Enright didn't want to jeopardize a lifelong career in television, he would take 100 percent of the blame for everything as his Geritol and NBC president bosses spoke about being on vacation at the time all this was happening. Yet would pay off...with the Joker's Wild.
Goodwin would become a speechwriter for Kennedy, and try to retire from politics after his assassination when Lyndon Baines Johnson would SCREAM at him. Scream at him, due to being the speechwriter of the man who first introduced the necessity for protecting American democracy wherever it could possibly thrive. According to LBJ, Richard Goodwin, the man who truly did save the world for future generations, "had his blood on this conflict in Vietnam just as much as he did".