This is an outstanding drama that provides an excellent opportunity for examining the way that people make moral choices. Stempel cheats because he wants to be accepted and respected, and because he believes that is the way the world works. Nevertheless, he is outraged and bitter when he finds that he himself has been cheated; the producer has no intention of living up to his promise to find him a job in television. Meanwhile, when first presented with the option of cheating, Van Doren reflects ("I'm just wondering what Kant would make of this"), and then refuses. Once on the program, however, he is given a question he had answered correctly in his interview. At that moment, what is he thinking? What moral calculus goes through his mind? Is this the decision to cheat, or is that a separate decision, later?
In Quiz Show's most painful scene, Van Doren must tell his father what he has done. Why did he do it? The movie suggests that it was in part a way to establish himself as independently successful, out of the shadow of his parents and uncle. He enjoyed the fame and the money. He argues that no one is being hurt by it. Goodwin, on the other hand, sees that it's wrong, and never for a moment hesitates when the producer tries to buy him off. Yet, as Goodwin's wife points out, he makes his own moral compromises when he tries to protect Van Doren. In part, he does it because he is after those he considers the real culprits. But in part he does it because he likes Van Doren, and because as much as he takes pride in being first in his class at Harvard, some part of him still thinks that the Van Dorens are better than he is. Some kids won't be able to sit through the talkiness of this movie. But for those that do, you'll all be richly rewarded with plenty to discuss on morals, choices, class, big business, the early days of TV, and so much more.