Television was still a new medium during the 1950s. Among the most popular television programming at that time were quiz shows. Earlier versions of classics such as "Jeopardy!" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

In later parts of the decade, the United States became enthralled by a major scandal involving several quiz shows. The fact that many of them were 'fixed' with the results decided in advance. The man who first really brought this to the public's attention was Herb Stempel.

Stempel died on April 7

Herb Stempel was a World War II veteran who served with the U.S.

Army. He later became a clerk with the U.S. Post Office. And he had a genius-level I.Q.. As noted by MSN, he was an early fan of tv quiz shows.

Among them was "Twenty-One". The show featured contestants answering various trivia questions, accumulating points for correct answers, and losing them for wrong ones. Whichever contestant reached 21 points first was the winner, who would get to come back for the next episode.

In 1956, Stempel became a contestant on "Twenty-One." He remained on the show for several weeks. But many found Stempel to be lacking in on-air charisma. They decided that someone who they felt might be more appealing should take over.

And that someone would be Columbia University professor Charles Van Doren.

Stempel was instructed to intentionally lose to Van Doren. The game-deciding question would be about which movie won Best Picture at the Academy Awards ceremony the year before. Stempel was told to say, "On the Waterfront." The correct answer was "Marty."

This was clearly unethical. But "Twenty-One" producer Dan Enright apparently promised Stempel that he would have a spot on another show.

But, as indicated by Variety, Enright seems to have renigged on this. And Stempel went to press.

What followed would be other revelations and a large-scale scandal. Congressional hearings and at least one grand jury were convened to investigate. At least four other game shows were found to have pre-determined the results. In 1960, President Eisenhower and Congress amended the law to make game show fixing a federal crime.

A similar controversy would emerge surrounding the British version of "Twenty-One." The resulting policies would affect television in the United Kingdom for decades to come.

Herb Stempel would become a high school teacher. Later, he'd work for New York City's Department of Transportation. He died on April 7, 2020. His death was at first not announced publicly and was recently confirmed by his family. Stempel died almost a year to the day after the death of Charles Van Doren.

Regained attention due to 'Quiz Show'

In 1994, the movie "Quiz Show," directed by Robert Redford, was released. It was inspired by the "Twenty-One" scandal. There have been disputes about its levels of accuracy, but it was a critical hit in any event.

Stempel was portrayed by John Turturro, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. That went along with nominations for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. At the Academy Awards, it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor. The last one was for actor Paul Scofield, who played Charles Van Doren's father, Mark.