One of the best ITV dramas to come out in a while, is the new miniseries, Quiz. The series, consisting of 3 episodes, that was broadcast over 3 nights, was written by James Graham, adapted from his play of the same name. The miniseries was also directed by Stephen Fears, who has directed a variety of real-life drama films, including The Queen (2006), Philomena (2013) and Florence Foster Jenkins (2016), as well as the recent drama series, A Very English Scandal (2018), also telling a real-life story in 3 episodes.
The series is based off the book, Bad Show: the Quiz, the cough, the Millionaire Major, and centres on the real-life scandal from the ITV show, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?. The scandal in question was that contestant, Charles Ingram (played by Matthew Macfadyen), someone who won the highest prize of all, and was accused of cheating after someone in the audience coughed at all the right answers. The scandal, which took place in 2001, is particularly infamous – everyone has heard of it, although, this series sheds light on the little details you probably didn’t know about.
The series’s first episode is particularly interesting for this, as it reveals that Charles’s wife, Diana (Sian Clifford) and brother-in-law, Adrian (Trystan Gravelle) both went on the show, prior to Charles. It shows how Diana and Adrian had a sort of “network” of people who were all fans of the show, and this people created small cheats and “tricks” to help get onto the show. For example, Adrian created a four finger buzzer that helped him practise, and he pretends he is four different people to get on the show illegally multiple times. Soon enough, these tricks succeed, and they are able to get the dim-witted Charles on the show.
The second and third episodes are, by extension, are a little less interesting as we do know more of these details. The second deals with game show episode in question, and the third deals with the court case, where Charles and Diana stand trial. However, these episodes aren’t any less thrilling or entertaining. The direction by Frears is particularly impressive. Much like his equally impressive work in A Very English Scandal, the miniseries is punchy, pacey and very thrilling. In particular, the scenes that could feel boring or dull (like ITV board meetings or discussion about the inner workings of a big huge game show) feel exciting and entertaining, and has remnants of buzziness and liveliness of certain scenes in David Fincher’s 2010 masterpiece, The Social Network.
In addition, the cast’s performances are splendid. Much has been made about Michael Sheen’s performance, playing Who Wants to be a Millionaire host Chris Tarrant, and although, it may appear odd on first viewing, once you get used to it, you will be delighted how great and detailed it is. It also is really great to see Macfayden and Clifford in here, both of which are stars of two of the best and biggest shows to come out recently, Succession and Fleabag, respectively. Although they do feel like an extension of their television counterparts (Macfadyden playing a high-respected and lovable idiot, while Clifford is playing a highly strung and tightly wound young woman), they do give great and sympathetic leading performances, particularly how they often do un-sympathetic and amoral acts. The series also has some wonderful supporting performances from various TV character actors, like Aisling Bea (This Way Up, Living with Yourself), Mark Bonnar (Catastrophe), and Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders).
Quiz is overall one of the best ITV dramas to come out in a long time – it is pacey, thrilling, tense, funny and entertaining in all the right ways. It is pitch perfect for everyone to binge as almost a long film, and you will not be disappointed if you watch it.