Can you really cheat your way through winning the big haul of 1 million pounds on a game show like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Well, theoretically it is indeed possible if one watches two and a half-hour long mini-series Quiz which has been unveiled on Sony LIV. Telling the real-life story of a couple which was accused of ‘coughing’ its way through the 15 questions in front of a live audience and that too on camera, this Stephen Frears directed drama with a good dose of quintessential British humour makes one look wife eyed as the story unfolds.
Back in time when the show was launched (and later adapted in India as Kaun Banega Crorepati, or KBC as it is fondly called), it turned out to be a hot property in the whole of Britain. Especially amongst the middle class, this was a way to realize some long-standing dreams, be it clearing all the outstanding dues, get rid of the mortgage or even get married. For the show-runners [Mark Bonnar] at a popular UK TV channel, this one was a goldmine waiting to be explored as every time a caller reached out for registration, there was a pound or two added.
Soon enough, there was a ‘syndicate’ that came into being which helped a common man crack all the codes on its way to reaching the hot seat. However, what happens after that? Well, that’s something that one couple manages to crack. For Army man [Matthew Macfadyen] and his wife [Sian Clifford], this wasn’t a game show to just enjoy and come back richer by a few thousand pounds. It was a way to truly become a millionaire. Tools, technology, talent, tactics – everything came together to ensure that win was indeed scored, whether it was legal or illegal.
This is what forms the premise of this truly nail-biting courtroom that actually turns out to be as tense as the real-life quiz show on which it is based, what with close to 50% of the action actually happening on the sets where the show is being recorded. The sound, the drama, the pauses, the audience response, the music – just about everything is quite familiar and that makes the series quite relatable for audiences worldwide who have been regaled with various versions of the show in different parts of the globe.
The fun element is consistent at both ends, be it during the actual game or later when the proceedings move to the courtroom. On one side, there is a mystery man [Michael Jibson] whose coughs are time and again coinciding with the right (or the wrong answers) mouthed by the contestant on the hot seat. On the other side Helen McCrory, who plays the defense lawyer for the couple, brings on the kind of arguments that seem just right enough for the whole case to be overturned. Then there is Charlie Sheen, the host, who brings on the entertainment.
No wonder, by the time the mini-series comes closer to the conclusion, you are more or less convinced on what actually happened, and how would the jury actually rule. However, there are ample turns in the narrative till this point which ensures that you are hooked on to the proceedings right through.
The actors in Quiz do well too, especially Matthew Macfadyen who does quite some play-acting on the stage to ‘give entertainment to the audiences’. On the other hand, Sian Clifford is pretty much blank in her expressions when this part actually required someone with added range. In comparison, Mark Bonnar is quite good as he brings in the humane element. Watch out for the scene where he meets one of the masterminds of the ‘syndicate’ and when the big truth is revealed. Same can’t be said for Trystan Gravelle (as Sian’s brother) though who overacts, and how!
That said, by and large, the mini-series turns out to be entertaining enough and also reveals the loopholes that existed when Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was unveiled first. It would indeed be time spent well.
Rating: Three and a half stars!