Television Quiz Show Scandals of the 1950s

analytical Essay
3211 words
3211 words

An Examination of Television Quiz Show Scandals of the 1950s

One of the greatest captivators of public interest in the 1950s was the emerging quiz game show on television. The public, naively trustful, fell in love with television game shows. People found them to be new, exciting, and similar to the captivating radio quiz shows so popular before television's advent. Some game shows were developed primarily for laughs, while others were played for prizes or large sums of money. These game shows were so popular that at their peak, twenty-two of them were concurrently on the air. They varied in format from the basic question and answer type to the naming of popular musical tunes. Public familiarity with the general structure of the quizzes, coupled with the strikingly high stakes, precipitated extreme interest in these shows, and led to the unbelievable popularity of successful returning contestants (Anderson, 9). Virtually everyone with a television set in their home tuned in weekly to their favorite game shows in the interest of seeing the contestants, with whom they identified more and more as the weeks went by, succeed in the quiz games. The popularity of quiz games was staggering. In August of 1955 approximately 32 million television sets and 47,560,000 viewers, almost one third of the nation, tuned in to see The $64,000 Question (Anderson, 8).

By 1958, no one was laughing anymore. Grabbing the attention of the public even more than the shows themselves were the scandals which emerged around them. The public's naive trust had evolved into suspicious cynicism because it had learned that many of the shows were rigged. As can be imagined, this caused great disgust among viewers. The supposed winners, for whom Americans had ro...

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...rd University Press, 1994.

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"Quiz Show: Television Betrayals Past... and Present?" Annenberg Washington Program. (3/11/97).

Stone, J. and T. Yohn. Prime Time and Misdemeanors: Investigating the 1950s TV Quiz Scandal -- A D.A.'s Account. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1992.

"Television in the 1950s." (3/11/97).

"Quiz Shows of the 1950s." (7/10/97 [added by PL])

"The Winning Answer." (3/11/97).

Tuchman, Gaye. The TV Establishment: Programming for Power and Profit. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., l971.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that television game shows captivated public interest in the 1950s, and the popularity of successful returning contestants.
  • Explains that the public's naive trust had evolved into suspicious cynicism because it had learned that many of the shows were rigged.
  • Explains the theme of attaining and living the american dream in the 1950s. the emergence of an affluent middle class reflected the promise of hope, excitement, and potential.
  • Explains that americans were easily influenced by television because it offered them many new things. by watching advertisements and television programs, they were led to form various impressions of products and programs themselves.
  • Describes the scandals surrounding twenty-one, the $64,000 question, and dotto.
  • Explains that twenty-one had many attractive elements which were to make it a popular quiz show. the show's sponsor, geritol, made an ultimatum to the producers to ensure success.
  • Analyzes how the producers of twenty-one liked herb stempel's image as an average man. they made him a star by prepping him with questions that would appear on the air.
  • Explains that similar acts occurred behind the scenes in many other game shows. dotto's contestant provided the first hard evidence of rigging and scandal in quiz games.
  • Analyzes how the quiz show scandals were driven by a drive for money and financial gain, which boosted the advertisers' profits and the network's profits.
  • Explains that the contestants' willingness to "play along" contributed to scandalous and fraudulent acts in television quiz game shows. they cited monetary lure linked with the american success ethic and fame's altruism.
  • Explains the lack of existing regulations prohibiting the fixing of game shows on television and insuring truth on the television screen. the rapid growth of television as a new technology in the 1950s was so new that no one knew neither the limits of its dangers nor its potentials for manipulation.
  • Analyzes how the "official" nature of the quiz shows, including the specific care taken in the carrying out the games' procedures, turned out to be contrived for the purpose of dramatic effect.
  • Analyzes how the public's reactions to the quiz scandals were published in opinion polls in popular magazines such as time and life — 42.8% favored the investigation, 30.6% did not, 17.4% had no opinion and 9.2% gave evasive answers.
  • Explains that before the television scandals of the 1950s, there were no laws on the books which specifically regulated television quiz game shows.
  • Explains that the law was broad enough to include a wide variety of interpretations as to whether the quiz show producers had indeed committed any crime.
  • Explains that the ftc and other regulatory agencies supported self-regulation of fraudulent quiz shows by their networks. president eisenhower signed a bill which mildly reformed the broadcast industry.
  • Explains that television has become a big part of american life since it witnessed the quiz show scandals of the 1950s.
  • Explains baggaley, ferguson, and brooks, psychology of the tv image.
  • Explains cooper-chen, anne. games in the global village: a 50 nation study of entertainment television.
  • Describes delong, thomas a., quiz craze: america's infatuation with game shows.
  • Explains diamond, edwin, and the annenberg washington program in communications policy studies of northwestern university.
  • Explains that hendrik, george, the selected letters of mark van doren, london, louisiana state university press, 1987.
  • Explains kisseloff, jeff, the box: an oral history of television 1920-1961.
  • Opines that marling, karal ann, as seen on tv: the visual culture of everyday life in the 1950s.
  • Analyzes annenberg washington program's "quiz show and the future of television."
  • Describes stone, j., and yohn's prime time and misdemeanors: investigating the 1950s tv quiz scandal.
  • Describes tuchman, gaye, the tv establishment: programming for power and profit.
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