From the end of 1955 to the middle of 1959, the quiz programme Lascia o raddoppia? transformed the way that Italians watched television, attracting a mass audience and appealing to viewers of different class backgrounds and levels of education. The quiz, watched by 15 million Italians at its peak, was more than Italy’s first successful television show: Lascia o raddoppia? also reflected the social and cultural transformations of Italy’s economic ‘miracle’, and confirmed the growing importance of mass culture and education in modern Italy. Yet, the role and response of the viewer in this television phenomenon has been largely overlooked. Viewers, if discussed at all, are often represented as an ‘Everyman’, mediocre, or the victims of Americanisation. This article examines the audience responses to the quiz by connecting the Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI) broadcaster’s audience enjoyment ratings to the programme transcripts, specific contestants and media coverage. The audience data, when linked to individual programmes and contestants, reflects important changes in society and education and challenges the myth of the passive viewer, demonstrating even that 1950s television audiences were not as malleable or as conservative as contemporary commentators and many histories suggest.