AMC’s Quiz Show Scandal True Story: Charles Ingram and Chris Tarrant Reaction

Here's how Charles Ingram and Chris Tarrant have reacted online to AMC's Who Wants to be a Millionaire cheating drama Quiz…

Matthew Macfadyen and Michael Sheen in Quiz
Photo: ITV

“There aren’t any villains in this story, really,” Sian Clifford told Den of Geek about Quiz, a three-part dramatisation of the real-life British Who Wants to be a Millionaire? cheating scandal, currently airing on AMC.

Adapted from James Graham’s play of the same name and inspired by the book ‘Bad Show: The Quiz, The cough, The Millionaire Major’, Quiz aims to shake public certainty about the 2001 scandal and its courtroom verdict.

Though not entirely apologist for Charles and Diana Ingram – the couple accused of using a system of coughing to cheat their way to the show’s top prize in 2001 – Quiz certainly conjures doubt over their guilt. And as Clifford (who plays Diana) says, it also doesn’t follow the British tabloid press of the time by painting them as villains.

It’s perhaps little wonder then, that Charles Ingram (played by Matthew Macfadyen in the miniseries), who has always maintained the couple’s innocence, is a fan of the show. Tweeting in April when the three-part drama was first broadcast on ITV in the UK, Ingram called it “terrifyingly accurate” and gave it a five star rating.

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Ingram continued, “Until now most people have only heard the winner’s version of the scandal. #Quiz is much fairer than anything broadcast before, despite just three hours of drama. It was excellent.”

Ingram’s reference to “anything broadcast before” likely refers to Martin Bashir’s ITV documentary Major Fraud, which aired after the end of the 2003 trial.

In an April interview with Radio X’s Chris Moyles, former UK Who Wants to be a Millionaire presenter Chris Tarrant praised the dramatisation as “very well done.” As quoted by The Independent, Tarrant went on to stress “…but it is a drama, it’s not factual.” The bottom line, said Tarrant, is that Charles Ingram is “a rotter and a cad and a bandit and he was guilty. No question in my mind at all that he was guilty.”

That comment appeared to prompt Ingram to another Twitter thread in which he criticised “repeated hypocrisy and gaslighting by Mr Tarrant and some Celador employees across the media.”

“I would prefer to go dark on this case,” Ingram Tweeted in the week after broadcast, but the destructive influence on his family “too much to bear.” Ingram then announced an intention to prove his and Diana’s innocence by challenging their case verdict, writing “We all want answers.”

Answers he hopes will come thanks to modern developments in audio analysis. “You would be surprised just how ordinary and quiet the supposedly original stereo mix made for TV was in comparison to Tape G” wrote Ingram on Twitter, in reference to an audio recording used as evidence of a distinctive pattern of coughing at the trial.

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With the help of UK lawyer Rhona Friedman, who is currently preparing to file paperwork to the Court of Appeal, the Ingrams are requesting permission to have their guilty verdict re-examined.

Speaking to ITV’s This Morning in April, Friedman stressed the difficulty of having a case reopened after this much time had passed, but was cautiously optimistic about having enough “to get the Court of Appeal to give [them] permission to look at this again.”

The drama, said Friedman, had been “a great fillip to Charles and Diana and to Tecwen Whittock,” the couple’s accused co-conspirator. “I think a lot of people will change their minds after episode three.”

Speaking to The Guardian Media Editor Jim Waterson, Friedman described anomalies, omissions and inconsistencies in the audio evidence used at the trial. She commented:

“The idea is that Charles was primed to appear on TV for the first time ever, in front of millions of people, knowing that he was going to be cheating, with a guy sitting behind him that he hasn’t met coughing to indicate an answer, without giving any reaction. It would have been the performance of a lifetime and he’s not capable of it.”

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For more on the true story of Quiz from the time, read this account by ITV’s court reporter and this account from The Guardian’s Jon Ronson.