There is something about real-life events that make for such compelling narratives. Writers can come up with some of the most elaborate and unique scenarios, but a well-executed depiction of a true story can be something quite magical. One of the narrative highlights of the past few years was Craig Mazan’s Chernobyl, which took the famous disaster that we thought we knew about and revealed nuances that were unfathomable. Even if you know the broad strokes of a story, it can be as tension-filled as any drama you have ever seen. Creatives have become keenly aware of how deep of a well the world is to draw from, and audiences around the world are reaping the benefits of the burgeoning creativity. This brings us to Quiz, the new British import from James Graham based on his play of the same name. As you may or may not remember, a British man named Charles Ingram made headlines in 2001 when he won the jackpot on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in England. The only problem was, he and his wife were accused of cheating their way to the grand prize. Throughout this three-episode miniseries, we get a front row seat to every tension-filled moment that led to the win, along with the subsequent trial.
Diana Ingram (Sian Clifford, Fleabag) comes from a family of trivia fanatics. Every week she attends pub trivia with her father and brother, Adrian (Trystan Gravelle), and they take it quite seriously. Diana is married to Charles (Matthew Macfadyen, Succession), a former army major in the Royal Engineers. Charles is a sweet man, if not a bit awkward and narrowly minded. He does not share his wife’s obsession with trivia contests, but he mostly accepts it as a part of his life that occasionally causes minor spats. In the late 1990s, creatives Paul Smith (Mark Bonnar) and David Briggs (Elliot Levey) are keen to develop a new game show that they call sell off. When the seeds of what would become Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? come about, everyone soon starts to realize they have something special on their hands. The show becomes a phenomenon, as the thrill of watching someone making a life-changing decision on network television proved to be too irresistible to millions of people. With such a fervent following developing, it was only a matter of time before individuals would start trying to find ways to game the system to their advantage.
One of the great things about this show is getting all the behind-the-scenes details that you never would have gotten just from just reading about the story. You may know what happened when Charles got on the show, but did you know there was a syndicate of fans who worked together to exploit the vetting process to get people on the show? Quiz takes you through the labyrinth that is this operation that inspired Adrian and Diana to make it on the show. It is only through their greed and fervor that they pushed Charles into the chair. The second episode is devoted to Charles in the hot seat opposite host Chris Tarrant (Michael Sheen), and the results are riveting. Even though it is dramatized, you get the rush of adrenaline that Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? used to give you, although partly for different reasons. Each cough from the alleged co-conspirators puts you on edge as you wonder if they are going to be caught. Sheen is nearly unrecognizable as the grin-flashing host who guides the audience through the peaks and valleys that define Charles’ appearance. This contestant is so irrational in his choices that he cannot be genuine, can he? Chris wants to believe that he is a good judge of character, and the idea that Charles was blatantly cheating right in front of him seems laughable. Those in power are not so quick to let Charles potentially pull one over on them.
The final of the three episodes takes you through the trial process with the Ingram family after they have been officially accused of cheating. In real life, the couple were convicted of this allegation, which the show does not deviate from, but it does the unbelievable by making a convincing argument for why these people may be innocent after all. Although the series plays out as if we know that they were on board for pulling off this crime, the argument from their barrister (Helen McCrory) reframes certain situations in a way that seems somewhat plausible. The simplest solution is to accept the truth as it was ruled in a court of law, but mulling over the alternative is a fascinating exercise considering they maintain their innocence until the day. Stephen Frears (The Hit) does an absolutely incredible job of directing these episodes in a way that makes them way more substantial than you would expect. The main setting may be a game show, but the way in which everything is presented is highly cinematic. This series also sings thanks to the strong performances from every single member of the cast. Macfadyen has been stealing the show over on Succession the past couple of years, but he gives a tour de force performance here. Sian Clifford is heartbreaking in her role of someone filled with an immense amount of regret in various aspects of her life. Quiz is more than just a show that is recreating scenarios from real life; it is a show that delves into the psychology of human behavior in a real way. This show is a transfixing watch that utilizes the crazy real-life details to craft the subtlest, most thrilling heist tale to hit the small screen in some time.
Quiz comes to Blu-Ray with an eye-popping 1080p presentation that pushes the format to its limit. The series is filled with intricately curated sets and gorgeous cinematography that is presented with perfect clarity on this disc. From the many brightly lit scenes to the darker, shadowy sequences, the skin tones and facial details are incredibly rendered in a way you could almost mistake this for a 4K disc. Subtle facial features are readily visible, such as the makeup work of Chris Tarrant that lends itself to intricate texture. Colors from the set design and costumes pop off the screen alongside the varied lush landscapes, such as the army base. Black levels are very deep and never betray the objects on screen. No instances of compression artifacts crept up during the viewing. This is an immaculate presentation that perfectly showcases a beautifully shot series that deserves such treatment.
The Blu-Ray disc comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is quite dynamic considering the type of show that it is. The series is primarily dialogue driven, but the fanfare on the set of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? including the iconic series music and the audience cheering opens up the track in a very impressive manner.. There is some nice ambient activity in the rear channels, especially during the murmuring of the courtroom and early scenes of bar trivia. The dialogue primarily stays in front center channels and is reproduced clearly. The track does a good job of making sure neither sound effects nor the score ever overpowers dialogue. The score brings a richness to the series that fills up the room on this track. There is not much that is going to knock your socks off in terms of low end response, but the sounds remain pretty dynamic throughout. This track has a substantial dynamic range that should please fans of the series.
- A Look At The Series: A two-minute surface level look at the series from the real-life inspirations to why the story is so compelling.
- Constructing The Set: A two-minute time lapse of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? set being constructed with the show theme music playing in the background.
- Michael Sheen Is Chris Tarrant: A four-minute featurette in which the cast and crew discuss the scandal at large and what it was like for Michael Sheen to be portraying such a notable public figure.
- Introducing Charles and Diana Ingram: A five-minute look at the central couple of the story in which the cast and crew discuss how the series offers up varying points of view that may make you look at them in a different light.
Quiz is a powerful and compelling miniseries that makes real-life events as riveting as any recent fictional tale. At only three episodes, the show never overstays its welcome as it addresses the main questions you have as an audience member. Performances are magnificent all around, and Stpehen Frears knocks it out of the park in the directing department. RLJE Films and AMC Networks have delivered a top-notch A/V presentation along with a few supplements. If you are looking for something dramatically engrossing that inspires debate, you need not look further. Quiz is one of the major highlights of the year so far. Highly Recommended
Quiz is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: RLJE Films and AMC Network have supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.