A key player from a dark chapter in the early days of television — the quiz show scandals of the 1950s — has died. The New York Times reports that TV producer Albert Freedman died April 11 in Greenbrae, Calif.
Freedman, 95, reportedly died of heart failure.
Freedman famously rigged the competition on his NBC quiz show “Twenty-One,” including giving questions in advance to contestant Charles Van Doren in 1956 to ensure that he would defeat reigning champion Herbert Stempel. Van Doren was deemed at the time to be a more TV-friendly contestant.
After the fix was uncovered, the ensuing scandal tainted the young medium of television and Freedman was indicted for perjury.
Freedman later denied that quiz shows were fraudulent, saying in a statement to The New York Times that the shows were about “showmanship, spectacle and illusion.”
Perjury charges against Freedman were dropped after he admitted giving questions to contestants in advance.
Freedman was played by Hank Azaria in Robert Redford’s 1994 feature film “Quiz Show,” about the 1950s scandals.
Here’s a clip of Freedman from a few years ago in which he discusses how he helped prepare Van Doren for his appearances on the show and talks about the quiz shows’ role in popularizing television …