Quiz Lady: Is there a true story behind the Hulu hit?

By Louie Fecou
Published: November 6, 2023
Is Quiz Lady based on a true story?
Awkwafina in Quiz Lady | Image via Hulu

The 2023 Hulu comedy Quiz Lady stars Sandra Oh and Awkwafina as sisters who find themselves on a trip to raise money to pay their mother’s gambling debt — and to rescue a kidnapped dog. The only way to raise the money they need is to become a champion on the fictional TV quiz show Can’t Stop the Quiz, and the film follows the quirky couple and their misadventures trying to achieve their goal. It’s a crazy premise, but is it crazy enough to be a true story? Allow us to explore the inspiration behind Quiz Lady and figure out why people have assumed it might be based on real events.

The film, which began streaming on November 3, 2023, has been praised by critics for its character dynamics, if not necessarily its narrative. But there’s a pretty simple reason why the idea of televised game show success resonates with the general public.

Is Quiz Lady based on a true story?

Quiz Lady is entirely a work of fiction, but it is easy to understand why people may think that the film is based on real events.

The language of television game shows is so ingrained into the psyche of people that when it is presented in a work of fiction, such as this one, it is easy to see why people could assume that the story is based on facts. These shows are built on the idea of success for everyday people. They have underdog stories baked into their firmament.

The realistic portrayal of the game show — which was a purpose-built studio set — featured in the film also automatically makes viewers think that the story could be real, and the performance from Will Ferrell as the host has echoes of the long-running quiz Jeopardy!, which has been a staple of U.S. television for decades.

Jeopardy! also became a hit in many other countries, and has had many different hosts, so when you watch the film, it does feel like this could just be another version of the show, adding to the believability of the premise. However, if you squint at it, Quiz Lady is still a work of fiction and not a true story.

What is Quiz Lady about?

Quiz Lady follows sisters Annie and Jenny, who discover their mother has huge gambling debts that have to be paid back. The family dog is kidnapped and used as collateral, and the siblings realize they have to get the money to pay the debt. Annie has been a long-time fan of trivia quiz shows, and as it happens, has become a natural talent for absorbing the kind of information that could make her a real contender on the fictional show Can’t Stop the Quiz, so the pair embark on a quest to get on the show, make the money to pay the debt, and resolve the film’s premise.

Along the way, they have some amusing incidents and learn about coming together as a family. In our rave review, we said the following:

Quiz Lady is a brilliant comedy elevated by a strong cast, making it worth watching at least once on Hulu. It has plenty of hilarious moments and, more importantly, a sweet story about two sisters finding their way back to each other despite shared adversity.

What are the inspirations for Quiz Lady?

Apart from the obvious comparisons to real-life shows such as Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, director Jessica Wu and the crew behind the production reportedly visited the set of the famous product-based quiz The Price is Right to get a feel for the studio-based game show. The game show in the film used some of the aesthetics of that particular TV show to inspire their fictional production in the movie.

It was also reported that the writer Jen D’Angelo would draw inspiration for the characters from her own experiences. In an interview with ScreenRant, the writer would explain that her brother was an inspiration for the character of Annie, as he was also a quiz fanatic, obsessed with the show Jeopardy! and able to retain all kinds of trivia:

Jen D’Angelo: “So, my older brother is very similar to Anne in that he is a genius and just remembers literally every fact he’s ever learned. He has been obsessed with Jeopardy his whole life, he’s tried out multiple times, he always makes it into the contestant pool, but never gets the call to be on the show. When I first moved to LA, I was working as an assistant on a Sony show, so I would have to drive on to the Sony lot all the time, and I would drive past the Jeopardy stages, and I would just be like, “It’s right there. If I could just get my brother onto the show, it would make his whole life.”

RELATED: Quiz Lady Ending Explained

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