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Winners – Top Kid (1985)

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clip What would you have done? education content clip 3

Original classification rating: G. This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Gary (Emil Minty) has been asked to cheat on the radio quiz show and asks Brother Kennedy (Joss McWilliam) and the Headmaster (Rhys McConnochie) for advice, but the brothers can’t give him a clear answer. At home, the show’s sponsors have delivered a new bike for him and a washing machine for his mother – and his proud father now agrees to send him to the special school. The pressure is really on for Gary when the radio Quiz Master (Garry McDonald) tells him the answer to a question prior to the show. What will he do?

Curator’s notes

This is a remarkable scene capturing the essence of Top Kid. Gary’s exchange with the Brothers shows that there are no easy answers and the way that the film finishes leaves the biggest question of all hanging. The fact that Gary goes on to add information to the prepared answer perhaps tempers the ‘cheating’ a little – this time. But what will he do next time? And, what would you do? The moral dilemma remains. This is a wonderful example of great children’s television.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows Gary Doyle, a young radio quiz champion, asking his headmaster (Rhys McConnochie) and Brother Kennedy (Joss McWilliam) about whether it is wrong to 'collude’ in a rigged quiz show. The two men advise Gary, who comes from a poor family, to take advantage of the opportunity. Gary arrives home to find a new bicycle and washing machine, presents from the quiz show. Before the show the quiz master (Garry McDonald) gives Gary the correct answer to a question, and during the show Gary hesitates theatrically before giving the answer. As the studio audience claps, Gary looks directly at the camera and asks the viewer in voice-over ‘... I wonder what you would have done if you were in my place?’

Educational value points

  • The clip conveys how difficult it is for Gary to resist the pressure to cheat, especially when he is coerced by authority figures from whom he might expect some moral guidance. Gary is compromised by the adults around him, from the Catholic Brothers who advise him to take the 'inside track’, to the sponsors who buy him off with consumer goods and even his parents, whose evident pride in their son’s achievements, as well as the material improvements this success brings to the family, create an added pressure.
  • Gary’s direct challenge at the end of the clip confronts viewers and in asking ‘what you would have done?’ he forces viewers not only to consider his circumstances when making a judgement, but also to examine their own standards of morality. Viewers are placed in a position where they want Gary to maintain his integrity but also to succeed, and this serves to highlight the complexity of the choices people face in everyday life.
  • In the clip the Brothers’ promotion of an unethical position is based on sympathy for Gary, a boy born into a poor working-class family with few prospects. The sympathetic support leads the Brothers to promote 'getting ahead’ over honesty. For Gary the moral dilemma is even more difficult – the improved fortune his success has brought his family means he can attend a school for gifted children, where he won’t be bullied for being different.
  • Winners – Top Kid reflects the television quiz show scandals in US television in the late 1950s. In 1958 disgruntled former contestants of the quiz show Twenty-One revealed that the results of the show were rigged and that contestants, particularly those who struck a chord with viewers, were given the answers to questions and coached in how to behave. The allegations became the subject of a Grand Jury investigation in New York, and later a US Senate inquiry, which resulted in a dramatic drop in ratings for quiz shows.
  • Radio was an important form of entertainment during the 'golden years’ of the 1940s and 1950s, and there were about 130 commercial and a similar number of ABC stations serving the Australian public. The popularity of radio quiz shows, the forerunners to television quiz shows, allowed commercial stations to attract sponsorship and advertising revenue. The Quiz Kids was initially sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive, and then by Johnson and Johnson, while Pick-A-Box was also backed by Colgate-Palmolive. Sponsors had an interest in the shows maintaining high ratings.
  • Radio quiz shows attracted huge audiences; for example, a McNair–Anderson survey conducted in 1955 found they were the most popular type of radio program in Australia. The appeal of quiz shows was due partly to the chance they offered 'ordinary’ contestants to change their fortune, particularly in a society experiencing the austerity of the Second World War and postwar period. Listeners liked to see battlers triumph, but also enjoyed being 'participants’ at home, matching their wits against the contestants’. Such was the success of the programs that they were adapted for television when it was introduced in 1956.
  • Quiz shows were a staple of evening radio, particularly on commercial stations. Among the most popular quiz shows was Bob and Dolly Dyer’s Pick-A-Box, which ran as a radio show from 1948 to 1956. Contestants who gave the correct answer to general knowledge questions could take a cash prize or pick one of several boxes, which contained either a big prize or a booby prize. Another popular show was Quiz Kids, presented by John Dease with a panel of five children who answered general knowledge questions. The show ran for 20 years from 1942.

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