One of my favorite movies of all time is Quiz Show, a story based on the scandals surrounding the 1950’s television show Twenty-One.

Directed by Robert Redford, with excellent performances by Ralph Fiennes, John Tuturro and Rob Morrow, the film centers on Charles Van Doren who became a celebrity through his success on the game until it was revealed that it was all rigged.

Great movie. See it the next time it rolls round on TNT or HBO.

But also read the fascinating account of the events and his life since by the real Charles Van Doren recently published in The New Yorker.

As with many other adaptations from real life, the truth is even more interesting than the fictional version.

One stark contrast between then and now: on the Today show of the late 50’s, Van Doren “read a great poem or two every Friday morning and talked about its author”, a popular segment with viewers.

Fridays in 2008, Today features a song or two by a current pop music phenomenon.

Another is that game shows today are rigged in more transparent ways and rarely involve asking anyone to demonstrate knowledge or intelligence.