Robert Redford’s Quiz Show is an elegant historical drama filled with a nostalgic love for a bygone era of television and of American culture. Though Quiz Show may not cover the most glamorous material imagined (it tells the story of a TV quiz-show-rigging scandal that eventually gets uncovered and revealed by the government), the clear love for the material helps this to become a highly effective drama.
I’ve written about a few post-Watergate thrillers recently (Klute, All the President’s Men) that have notable themes of conspiracy and paranoia throughout, and it’s hard not to make a connection between the Watergate scandal and this shift in the popular culture. Americans were really woken up to the realization that the government, and big institutions with a lot of influence and power, can be corrupt and insidious, can threaten traditional American values and beliefs.
Watching All the President’s Men is a pretty eerie experience right now, in February of 2017, with our own presidential scandal unfolding in front of us. It’s also a pretty educational experience, as someone unfamiliar with the process of investigative journalism, to see a behind-the-scenes look at the legwork, the self doubt, the paranoia, that goes into the kind of investigations that are unfolding at key journalistic outlets across the country right now.