In last week’s Show Spotlight I wrote about ABC’s short-lived game show, 100 Grand, which ran for just three weeks at the start of the 1963-1964 season. It was the first quiz show to premiere following the fabled “quiz show scandals” of the late 1950s. It was said to be “rig proof” and maybe it was. It certainly wasn’t any fun to watch, apparently. Now, some five decades after Charles Van Doren testified in front of Congress, The New York Times reports that the Federal Communications Commission is apparently investigating whether an potential contestants on an unaired FOX game show were given answers. The show in question is called Our Little Genius. It was supposed to premiere on Wednesday, January 13th following American Idol but was withdrawn by Mark Burnett the previous week due to “an issue with how some information was relayed to contestants during the preproduction,” according to a January 7th article in The New York Times.
According to today’s article in The New York Times, a letter was sent to the F.C.C. on December 17th, 2009 by the parent of a potential contestant on Our Little Genius:
The letter alleges that a few days before a planned taping, a member of the programâ€™s production staff reviewed with the contestant and his parents a list of potential topics and gave specific answers to at least four questions that the child either did not know or about which he was unsure.
For example, the letter states that when the child said that he didn’t know the British system of naming musical notes, he was told by the production staff member the names of four specific notes that “he needed to know,” including semibreve for whole note, crotchet for quarter note and quaver for eighth note. “He told us that it was very important to know that the hemidemisemiquaver is the British name for the sixty-fourth note,” the letter says.
For privacy reasons, the F.C.C. redacted the names of the author of the letter and the child contestant. The letter states that the child went to the studio for a taping on Dec. 8, but after a meeting with an attorney for Mark Burnett Productions, at which one of the childâ€™’s parents raised issues about some of the planned questions and the contestâ€™s rules, the childâ€™s appearance on the show was canceled.
The article explains the F.C.C. (which apparently never confirms or denies its investigations) will attempt to determine whether contestants or potential contestants were actually given answers, which is illegal. As set forth in the Communications Act of 1934, it is unlawful “to supply to any contestant in a purportedly bona fide contest of intellectual knowledge or intellectual skill any special and secret assistance whereby the outcome of such contest will be in whole or in part prearranged or predetermined.”
Will 2010 be known as the year the second quiz show scandals began? I doubt it.