Please welcome guest Sally Carpenter, who will explain the genesis of television quiz shows that led to her new publication, The Quirky Quiz Show Caper:


TV Quiz Show Capers
By Sally Carpenter

Television game shows: fact or fiction?

When big money quiz shows hit the American airwaves in the 1950s, their popularity grew so fast that nobody knew what to do with them. No laws existed that prohibited cheating on the programs.

Gerital, the sponsor of “Twenty One,” was unhappy with the show’s debut in 1956. The producers, Dan Enright and Jack Berry (also the host), were ordered to make changes.

From the producers’ point of view, rigging the show made dollars and sense. The public wouldn’t watch thirty minutes of contestants saying, “I don’t know,” so the producers had to make sure the players knew the answers.

If the public liked a particular contestant, the producers kept that person winning for as long as possible. Ties and rematches produced drama and suspense. After all, quiz shows were entertainment, not games of skill like the Olympics.

If you’ve seen the movie “Quiz Show,” you know how contestant Herb Stemple was ordered to deliberately lose on “Twenty One” to allow Charles Van Doran to win. In reality, other contestants beside Stemple complained to the FCC about their treatment on the show.

“Twenty One” contestant James Snodgrass had received the answers in advance and mailed them back to himself via registered mail as proof of cheating.

Other shows were also dishonest. On “Dotto,” contestant Ed Hilgemeyer found a notebook containing answers fed to his competitor, Marie Winn.

A young Patty Duke was coached to win on “The $64,0000 Challenge.”

During a grand jury investigation of “Twenty One” and other shows, more than a hundred persons were found guilty of perjury–but nobody was indicted for cheating.

Dan Enright and Jack Berry laid low for many years but reunited in 1976 to produce a new (and hopefully honest) string of successful game shows, including “The Joker’s Wild” and “Tic-Tac-Dough,” showing that bad guys still win in Hollywood.

Even with anti-cheating laws in effect, some game shows are still less than honorable. On Fox’s “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire,” Darva Conger bested 49 other women for the hand of Rich Rockwell, who actually owned little more than a 1,200-square foot house with a broken outdoor toilet. Their marriage was annulled.

Also on Fox, Gabe Okoye and Brittany Moyti on “Million Dollar Money Drop” gave a correct answer that was declared wrong. When asked, “Which of these items was sold first in stores,” their response of “Post-it Notes” over “Sony Walkman” was ruled incorrect. After the mistake was spotted, the pair were allowed to return to the show but they lost anyway.

In 2010 Fox was producing “Our Little Genius,” in which child prodigies were asked difficult questions. When the parent of a contestant told the FCC that the producers had given the child some of the answers in advance, the show was pulled and never aired.

Apparently the Fox network is not as sly as it thinks.

In my new cozy, “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper,” former teen idol Sandy Fairfax is a panelist on a rigged game show. What does Sandy do when the producer demands that he “take a dive” on live TV? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier now living in Moorpark, Calif.

She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University. While in school her plays “Star Collector” and “Common Ground” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. “Common Ground” also earned a college creative writing award and “Star Collector” was produced in New York City.
Carpenter also has a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do.
She’s worked as an actress, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for Paramount Pictures. She’s now employed at a community newspaper.

In her Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series are: “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper” (2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel), “The Sinister Sitcom Caper,” “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper” and “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper.”

She has short stories in two anthologies: “Dark Nights at the Deluxe Drive-in” in “Last Exit to Murder” and “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” in “Plan B: Omnibus.”

She penned chapter three of “Chasing the Codex,” a group mystery written by 24 authors with Cozy Cat Press.
She blogs at and
She’s a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. Contact her at Facebook or