In September 2001, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire had its ultimate water cooler moment when contestant Major Charles Ingram managed to cheat the system and win the top prize. In 2017, the TV moment of the noughties was retold via a stage play by James Graham, which is now being adapted by ITV and AMC into a three-part drama titled Quiz. The series is also written by Graham and will feature the likes of Michael Sheen (playing Chris Tarrant), Matthew Macfayden (playing Charles Ingram), and Sian Clifford (playing Diana Ingram).
If you're unfamiliar with the scandal (I can only just remember it), here's a brief rundown. Basically, Charles was a contestant on the show for two nights, as his time ran out on the first. He didn't do too well during his first appearance, which led him, his wife Diane, and fellow contestant Tecwen Whittock to hatch a plan that would ensure Charles made it further in the quiz show.
When Charles returned for his second appearance, he was miraculously getting every answer right. "The Major would read the four possible answers, and Whittock would cough after the correct one," Vice writes. "On hearing the cough, the Major would know he had said the right one and proceed to offer this answer." The only problem was since Ingram struggled the previous night and kept chopping and changing his answers quickly upon hearing the coughs, producers began to catch on.
As Vice reports, the Ingrams never got hold of that sweet cash prize, and were instead met with a "four-week trial [where they] were convicted of procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception," and were given suspended prison sentences and fined £115,000.
The Ingrams have maintained their innocence since the scandal broke, and this aspect of their story is precisely what drew Graham to adapting their story to stage. "I was gripped by this story over 15 years ago, and I'm still gripped now," Graham said in a press statement. "It's a very English heist. Putting it onto stage at Chichester and the West End was such a lot of fun, and with a new team we now get to re-imagine the whole story afresh for television." He added:
"I have to pay credit to the late investigative journalist Bob Woffinden, who along with James Plaskett wrote the book Bad Show that kicked the whole creative process off by asking the question — what if the Major is innocent?"
Quiz will also give viewers insight into how Who Want's To Be A Millionaire? was initially pitched, and how it became one of the world's most recognisable programmes in the early '00s. "I am delighted to be bringing James Graham's wonderful play Quiz to screen on ITV," Polly Hill, ITV's Head of Drama said. "It's testament to James' brilliant scripts that Stephen Frears is directing, which together with Left Bank Pictures producing, promises to deliver a very special drama.
"It's an extraordinary and thoroughly British story and is going to be a real treat for our audience."
As ITV notes, filming is currently underway in London, so there's no estimated air date as of yet. I've reached out to a rep for the show for further clarification on this, but have yet to hear back. I'll let you know if I do.