Quiz (2020) 2020 / A brilliantly ambiguous three-parter based on the real-life scandal that rocked British TV


For a show about a multiple-choice quiz, this miniseries about the cheating scandal that struck UK TV’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is thrillingly, juicily open-ended. In 2001, bumbling Major Charles Ingram (Matthew Macfadyen) won the top prize with a sensational performance, but broadcasters ultimately decided to pull the episode from the air after noticing an apparently convenient pattern of coughing during taping.

Director Stephen Frears plunges us right into the nail-biting tension of Charles’ final questions; it feels as if we’re really watching live event TV. Macfadyen and Sian Clifford (as Charles’ wife Diana, a former contestant herself) give masterfully cryptic yet human performances, while Helen McCrory (as their barrister) flips everything we thought we knew on its head in a showstopper of a courtroom scene. But the most impressive thing about Quiz is playwright James Graham’s writing: not only does the script play up the ultimate campiness of this intrigue (no one died, after all), but it also weaves in commentary on television’s appetite for “entertaining falsehoods.” What saves Quiz from feeling manipulative itself is how masterfully the mystery is balanced on a knife edge — it’s a stunning exercise in ambiguity that never stops being gripping, teasing us with its reminder that, sometimes, there is no final answer.

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