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1950s / Quiz Show Scandal
One of the most disillusioning moments in American TV history was the revelation that some of the big-money quiz shows of the 1950s were rigged. The most famous incident occurred on Twenty-One when longtime champion Herbert Stempel was dethroned by Charles Van Doren. Stempel was groomed by producer Dan Enright to look and behave like a know-it-all nerd--which had its desired effect. The public rooted for the handsome and sophisticated challenger, Charles Van Doren, to defeat him. Both players were coached on the questions they would receive. After a series of tie games, Stempel deliberately missed a relatively easy question that would have given him the win. The game ended in another tie and Van Doren won the next game. For 'taking a dive,' Stempel had been promised his own panel show by Enright. When Enright reneged, Stempel told the press that Twenty-One was rigged. At first his claims were thought to be those of a sore loser, but when contestants on another game show, Dotto, came forward with solid evidence of fixes, Stempel's accusations had to be investigated. The 1994 movie Quiz Show was based on this scandal.