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Quiz is really about unraveling the human desires, neuroses and outright stubbornness that made Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? a massive hit

  • The three-part AMC and ITV series, from writer James Graham and director Stephen Frears, does focus on the early 2000s British Millionaire scandal involving Charles and Diana Ingram. But while Quiz is interested in how Charles and Diana got in so far over their heads, "it never comes as alive as when it’s following the team of television producers that lured them there," says Caroline Framke. "From conception to controversy, show creators Paul Smith (Mark Bonnar) and David Briggs (Elliot Levey) steer the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? ship with both grim determination and unwavering enthusiasm. Everything about their show was done with attention not just to what makes a quiz compelling, but the psychology that keeps people trying to win them. The idea of someone cheating their system — or, as they learn with dawning horror, many people cheating their system — is as offensive to them as it is unfathomable. Bonnar is especially good as Paul, first flush with the power to mentally torment a new generation of contestants, then slack with disbelief as his supposed puppets start turning the tables back on him."


    • Quiz is gripping, but it should've been more than three episodes: "Much like the cases depicted in Netflix’s recent Trial By Media series, the Ingrams’ day in court is only part of their trial; the media fervor swirling around them means they’ve already been found guilty in the court of public opinion," says Randall Colburn. "That’s a compelling tension to explore, but Quiz relegates it almost entirely to the series’ third and final episode, leading to both an overstuffed finale and an overall arc that feels unbalanced. While the origins of Millionaire and the shadowy cabal of nerds exploiting it are interesting threads, they do little to endear us to Charles and Diana, who don’t establish themselves as characters or key players until the second episode. Quiz’s tight, three-part structure is one of its selling points in this era of overstuffed TV, but the trim runtime isn’t utilized nearly as well as it could’ve been. That doesn’t make it boring, however."
    • Quiz isn't as substantial as you might hope given the big themes it dabbles in: "It skates along nimbly on the surface of its mystery and its light social satire — Charles and Diana may have royal-sounding names, but they are, a prosecutor points out, 'middle class, middle-aged, middle England' — and is content to stay there. In contrast to much of the current TV and streaming landscape, it makes you wish there were more of it — its three 45-minute episodes (not including commercials) feel too slight," says Mike Hale. That Quiz avoids going too deep may make sense, though, if you consider that its real theme is the TV business’s ability to profit from pain."
    • It’s hard not to care about the leads considering how beloved Succession's Matthew Macfadyen and Fleabag's Sian Clifford are: "Both are very good and charming enough ,even if their characters never feel like more than blank slates," says Kristen Lopez. "Macfadyen, especially, is a lot of fun with a social awkwardness that’s endearing and an inner contempt for his brother-in-law. His exasperation at Adrian’s drama is relatable. To her credit, Clifford tries to make Diana more than a harridan but it’s hard. The character is just so simple that it’s difficult for the actress to find anything to latch onto, try as she might."
    • Quiz is a compelling three hours, but avoid Googling what happened: "Quiz is smart, entertaining, and told with a great sense of efficiency," says Jen Chaney. "By sticking to three hour-long episodes, it provides all wheat and no chaff. While the series doesn’t blatantly aim to be culturally relevant or offer specific lessons that can be taken away from this episode in British pop-cultural history, it hints at how frighteningly easy it is to perpetuate falsehoods once they become accepted as fact."
    • The plot of Quiz is so naturally absurd the writers needed to do little except get out of its way and allow the ridiculous series of events to unfold: "There is something so delightful about a quirky group of fanatics trying to game the Millionaire system with the intensity of robbers breaking into Fort Knox," says Kelly Lawler. "There are bootleg machines to train on, lifeline tactics to master and a hilarious phone-tree conspiracy as a pre-internet way of finding trivia answers quickly. Rather than shame and belittle the game show obsessives, Quiz has an affinity for their idiosyncrasies and personalities, which contributes to the series' jovial tone."
    • Macfadyen isn't sure if the Ingrams are guilty or not: "Pretty much every single day, Sian and I would say, 'What do you think? Do you think they're innocent?'" he says. "I came through the whole shoot, and I still don't think I've got it."
    • Here are the Quiz stars vs. their real-life counterparts

    TOPICS: Quiz, AMC, ITV, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (UK), James Graham, Matthew Macfadyen, Sian Clifford, Stephen Frears, Game Shows