This phenomenon peaked with ITV’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and then the hit-making concept bested itself by platforming one of the greatest broadcast scandals of our lifetime, when in 2001, Charles Ingram, along with his wife Diana, was accused and ultimately convicted of cheating live on air to win, essentially stealing £1,000,000.
This debacle is brought to life in three-part miniseries Quiz, fortuitously airing on ITV. The show builds on James Graham’s 2018 play of the same name. Clearly, some stories always have more to tell.
The anecdotal crime suits the small screen perfectly, as the claustrophobic tension builds wickedly as the walls start to close in on the crime. As with most ‘Did They Do It?’ dramas, we flit between a courtroom and the chronology of events – but as it’s only a story of thirds, the double narrative never distracts from immersive entertainment for too long.
Sian Clifford and Matthew Macfadyen in Quiz
Ingram’s journey is so involving here because of the note-perfect players taking on these characters. Matthew Macfadyen is Charles, Sian Clifford his Diana. He’s fresh from playing Tom Wambsgans in Succession – a seedy, egotistical businessman without any spine to speak of, while she broke through playing Fleabag’s sister in the transcendent BBC comedy – a neurotic, tight-lipped businesswoman struggling to connect with anyone.
The Ingrams are afforded more than gross caricature though. Quiz leaves the yes/no questions up for interpretation, focusing more on giving depth to the characters and circumstances that led to the nationwide fascination in the first place. Macfadyen and Clifford toy with acerbic wit and hyper-vigilant body language, but never lose credibility as two people who were turned into pariahs and violently shunned, while doubt about their innocence still lingers today.
Playing seminal TV host Chris Tarrant is Michael Sheen, brilliantly metamorphosed and coloured a light tangerine, his voice gently nasal. His performance sets the tone for the show: committed and deadly serious in the mission to tell the truth, but still lively and light enough for the viewer to feel comfortable groaning and yelping in turn at each twisty development in the engrossing case.
Michael Sheen as Chris Tarrant in Quiz
The actual outcome matters little – we have two decades of headlines and hypotheses for that – but Quiz relishes the various trajectories that intersected in such an eye-popping way. Charles Ingram didn’t even like quizzes that much – it was his wife, Diana, and her brother, Adrian, who fell down the rabbit hole in the first place.
But they all spiralled together, whether because they tripped or simply jumped with both feet. Just under 20 years later, the rest of us are still gleefully tumbling into the depths of this story with them, no sign of closure in sight. Where would be the fun in that?
|Quiz, ITV review
13 Apr 20 – 17 Apr 20, COMING TO ITV
|Click here for more information