The central figure in the 1950's Quiz Show Scandal
. An English professor at Columbia
, Van Doren heard from a friend the money that could be made on game shows. Van Doren eventually became a contestant on the quiz show Twenty-One
Producer Albert Freedman
was only too happy to have Mr. Van Doren: A clean-cut, aristocratic looking fellow, just the thing their mast
wanted to reassure their customers about their position in the world.
Charles Van Doren had a dramatic series of victories on Twenty-One, amassing over $138,000 in winnings before losing on February 11. Ratings
for Twenty-One soared. Geritol was happy.
This was Mr. Van Doren's 15 minutes of fame: His experience on Twenty-One
made him highly sought-after for television appearances. Making $4,400 per year up to that point, he eventually signed a $150,000 contract with NBC
for appearances on the Today Show
and several others.
And then, everything began to fall apart. Herb Stempel
, one of the people Van Doren had beaten, revealed that Twenty-One
was completely scripted
: The producers had fed Van Doren answers, and Mr. Stempel's several ties with Van Doren were used to heighten suspense.
When confronted with these accusations by the press, he lied, asserting his innocence. But allegations would not go away: Other defeated contestants were coming forward with their stories, and not just from Twenty-One
. The House Of Representatives
formed a committee to investigate the scandal. When subpoenaed by the House, Van Doren decided to stop stonewalling and told all on January 2, 1959.
This was a low point in the history of television, but it so capped Mr Van Doren's meteoric rise with a meteoric fall. NBC canceled his contract, and he had to resign from Columbia University. And his girlfiend left him.
His career after this point consisted mostly of writing books under pseudonyms.
Just so I'm not guilty of the same thing: I remembered some of this but http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/quizshow/peopleevents/pande02.html provided a lot of the details.