Wednesday 22 April 2020

Quiz - ITV review

Quiz, which ran for three episodes on consecutive nights last week, was perfect lockdown televiewing. A family entertainment show about family entertainment, with an ingenious crime and a bit of courtroom drama. Fittingly, for a show about quizzes, it posed a tricky question. Did Major Charles Ingram and his wife Diana conspire with Tecwen Whittock in 2001 in an attempt to cheat a million pounds out of the show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

I was a big fan of Millionaire in its early years. I've always enjoyed quizzes and the TV show I watch most regularly is University Challenge, where the contestants play for glory rather than cash. A lot of the popular quiz-type shows with big cash prizes leave me cold, but Millionaire fascinated me until it became too samey. Quiz showed how Millionaire began before showing how the Ingrams, and Diana's brother became obsessed with the possibility of winning a million. In short, the issue was whether strategic coughing by Whittock was what tipped Ingram off about the right answers.

Quiz boasted impeccable credentials, with a script by James Graham and direction by Stephen Frears. The Major was played by the always appealing Matthew Macfadyen and Diana by Sian Clifford, who was excellent in Fleabag. Especially brilliant - but when is he not? - was Michael Sheen, with an extraordinarily convincing performance as quiz master Chris Tarrant. The third episode was cunningly written so as to strike quite a good balance between the competing arguments - in effect, the allegation of fraudulent conspiracy versus the defence of innocence and eccentricity.

History relates that the Ingrams and Whittock were convicted of the crime. But they have always maintained that the conviction was unjust. I thought that Quiz was not only extremely watchable but also extremely fair to the accused. It didn't, for instance, highlight the fact that two years after they avoided prison in this case, Ingram was convicted of an unrelated insurance fraud.

No comments: