Robert Redford's directorial effort Quiz Show really delved into a loss of innocence when it comes to a cornerstone of "pure" American entertainment: trivia game shows. There was something dirty and sad about seeing a slice of classic Americana getting fixed before our very eyes.
Pinning down exactly why is kind of difficult, which could be why people want to know, even to this very day, if modern game shows like The Wall are rigged. So is it?
Is 'The Wall' rigged? Fans of the game show have their theories.
If you aren't familiar with The Wall the game show is basically a modern version of Plinko, with an added "trust" aspect between contestants. Here's how it works: Two contestants partner up and answer a series of questions. Correct answers result in a green ball falling down on the Wall. The ball lands on the board in a slot that corresponds with a cash prize for the players.
Incorrect answers dispense a red ball. The space the red ball lands shows how much is subtracted from the players' prize.
Gameplay differs from round to round. Cash values for the "fall" areas range from $1 to $25,000 per fall in Round 1. In Round 2, the cash values range from $1 to $150,000. (It used to be up to $250,000 in Seasons 1-3.)
The differentiation between the rounds is really important. This is where all sorts of theories regarding the purportedly "rigged" aspect of the game come into play. That's because one of the players on the team is put in an isolation booth at the start of the round. They won't know how many questions were answered correctly or the amount of money their partner was able to stash away in the bank.
The player onstage can then put three balls in various spaces on the board after seeing the answers to the questions. Depending on how much confidence they have in their partner, they'll adjust how much they're playing for accordingly. Then, their partner in the booth is asked the questions, and if they get the questions right, green balls will drop and they'll have a chance to win some serious cash.
Round 3 is played in a similar fashion, but the cash payouts are way higher, with a million-dollar option opening up for contestants. But there's an added aspect: Players are given the option to take a contract for a guaranteed payout as opposed to letting it ride and seeing where their luck on the board lies.
So where does the rigging come into play? Well, the red ball drops are a little less random. They're dropped onto the board one at a time instead of all at once like the green balls.
Then there's the nature of the isolation booth and the contract. The isolated player is sent the contract and they must decide whether or not they tear up or sign the contract.
While they're not allowed to interact with each other, there is a key moment where players can express their intentions before going into the booth.
A short speech is usually given during the third round where specific "code words" can be relayed to signal to the isolated player whether or not the contracted should be signed or torn up. In this way, the show can be "rigged."
But what about the balls that fall on 'The Wall'? Are they rigged in any way shape or form?
There are different theories as to how the balls could be controlled by producers on The Wall. Some believe they're moved with magnets or invisible wire, like this one Redditor postulated, due to the "emotional" narratives that are constructed for some of the show's episodes. Whether or not that's actually the case, however, is an entirely different story.
What do you think? Are there any shenanigans going on? Or is the game as legit as they come? If you want to scrutinize the show and see for yourself, new episodes of The Wall air on Monday at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.