Quiz Show Scandals

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The Quiz Show Scandals was a television event which became a controversy that transpired in the mid 1950s.

Many nighttime quiz shows were slow, dull and the questions were mind-bogglingly hard. Many attracted big audiences such as The $64,000 Question (an offshoot of radio's The $64 Question) while others were simple parlor games and panel shows. Jack Barry and Dan Enright launched the show Twenty-One on NBC in 1956, and during a run that late autumn, they had a champ named Herb Stempel. A prospective contestant, Charles Van Doren, wanted to try out for Tic Tac Dough which was on the same network by the same company, but Dan Enright saw him as a clean-cut all-American guy who would be perfect on Twenty-One. To facilitate him being champion, Van Doren was fed answers, and on the December 5, 1956 telecast, champion Herb Stempel took an ordered dive. (He incorrectly answered that the 1954 Oscar for best picture went to "On The Waterfront," but his loss occurred when the second game was halted by Van Doren, who led the game by an 18-10 score).

Two years later, Stempel leveled charges that he was told to lose and that Van Doren was fed answers. At a Congressional hearing, Van Doren confessed this was true. A Tic Tac Dough contestant, 16-year-old Kristen Falke, deliberately lost a game as she testified she was fed answers and she felt her victory would have been tainted. The first show to be fingered for cheating was Dotto, which aired on NBC nighttime and CBS daytime.

NBC canceled Twenty One, bought out Barry and Enright's interests in Tic Tac Dough and assumed production on another B&E show, Concentration. CBS canceled all big-ticket giveaway shows, holding fort with low-money panel games like Password. This ban lasted until 1972. Barry, Enright and producer Howard Felscher were virtually exiled from TV for over a decade. They would all return in the 1970s with more successful and honest shows.