Quiz reexamines the Millionaire cold case

Conor Breslin

To cheat your way to a million pounds on a tv game show with a worldwide audience looking at you, you would need to be extremely deceptive, have a mastermind plan and have a remarkable amount of intelligence. Unfortunately for Charles Ingram, he had none of these traits, as shown last week on ITV’s new cutting-edge drama, Quiz.

During a test, people look up for inspiration, down for desperation and left and right for information. This is all very true, however, for those who don’t know, a Major army officer and his wife Diana potentially decided to take a very different tactic by coughing their way to the grand prize of one million pounds back in 2001 on ITV’s ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’.

This three-part drama stars Matthew MacFadyen as the major Ingram with Sian Clifford as his wife and not forgetting the remarkable Michael Sheen as the pitch-perfect host who looks more like Chris Tarrant than Tarrant himself. If you close your eyes and listen, it’s him. The resemblance and personal attributes are uncanny, to say the least.

The drama itself gets off to rather a shaky start highlighting a way to make the game show the cultural phenomenon it is today as well as the Ingram family’s obsession with the, at the time, a popular new game show on ITV with Tarrant as host.

What may be a series of far fetched conspiracy theories are unfolded in episode one, with Diana’s brother Adrian falling into economic debt due to repeatedly applying for the game show. This is done to no avail, with Quiz also displaying his involvement with an underground network of quizzers who aim to find a system of successfully applying for the quiz show.

This would all provide the catalyst for the family’s involvement in a what was portrayed as a ridiculous and greedy money heist that rocked Britain almost twenty years ago.

Once the nooks and crannies are sorted in episode one, it leads the viewer to Charles’s time in the hot seat where he struggles to reach a rather easy milestone of four grand. The next day, however, the Major returns a genius and snatches one million pounds of tax-free money.

What the final two episodes leave you wondering is, did the Ingram’s along with their coughing assailant Tecwen Whittock cheat or have the producers of a popular quiz show successfully sown a seed of doubt within your mind?

Have they sold you a story that you believe? It’s up to the viewer to decide. Watching both the show and the real event, I chose the former with ease.

The system was simple, Charles would read out the options of each question while Whittock would cough on the correct answer. In the trial in the final episode, the prosecution would go into greater detail of this scandal while the defence would highlight the importance of memory and the statistics about coughing in a dry ITV studio.

The show also brilliantly portrays the part of the Ingram’s the  media never showed us, the abuse, the vandalism, the bullying and the coughing everywhere they went.

This drama is described best as “easy to watch television” with the arching question of, did they do it as the main theme? Legally yes, but is there something we haven’t been told or did this family simply push their luck?

All in all, Quiz has succeeded in telling an original story that viewers must watch. It’s funny, daft, sympathetic and bewildering. There’s even a musical number.

Conor Breslin

Image Credit: Leftbank Pictures For ITV