In the 1956-57 television season, Charles Van Doren became one of America's first prime time "reality" celebrities, but probably not in the way he would have wished. Van Doren won $129,000 as the 14-week champ on NBC's
Twenty-One, but all wasn't what it seemed.
On Nov. 2, 1959, after an investigation, Van Doren confessed to a Congressional committee that the quiz "contest" had been rigged. From a statement, he read, "I was involved, deeply involved, in a deception."
Broadcasting commissioned two public opinion surveys-one conducted before the testimony and one after. Before Van Doren's disclosure, 18.9% said their opinions about TV changed because of the growing scandal. After Van Doren's confession, that jumped to 50.9%.
Just over 54% said they didn't want quiz shows back on the air, up from 34% before Van Doren's disclosure. Foreshadowing attitudes toward the later Monica Lewinsky scandal, the survey suggested the public was more concerned about Van Doren's initial lies than the rigging itself.