It's 1958, and the producers of the quiz show 21 have a problem. Their current champ, Herbert Stempel (John Turturro), has a phenomenal memory and a broad range of knowledge.
He's also a pudgy loudmouth with a grating personality, so Herbert is encouraged to take a dive and allow Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), a handsome and charming college professor, to become the show's new champion.
Audiences like Van Doren, and he's certainly not averse to the money he's winning, but the ethics of the situation begin to trouble him, especially when the show's producers begin to give him the questions in advance.
Director Robert Redford and writer Paul Attanasio paint a telling portrait of how the network heads and advertising men who manipulated the quiz shows were also able to manipulate the responsibility for the scandal away from themselves.
While on the surface a story about the scandal itself, Quiz Show is just as importantly about a turning point in the 1950s when TV and advertising began to change American character and culture.