Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

DVDs
cover art

Candid Camera Greatest Moments

(US DVD: 8 Aug 2006)

When a show lasts over five decades, it must have something good going for it. And Candid Camera is just such a high quality program. This DVD gathers up numerous memorable moments from the series’ long run, which will have you laughing out loud and smiling right along with the show’s unwitting participants.


The Candid Camerashow, which has been called the first true reality series, combines a funny concept — that of putting people into unexpectedly uncomfortable situations — with spot-on situational execution. Allen Funt began creating Candid Camera episodes way back in 1948, and his son Peter carries on this zany tradition today. Its catch phrase, the one about catching people “in the act of being themselves,” is not entirely accurate. If you find yourself talking to a mailbox or a horse, for instance, and that inanimate object or beast talks back, you’re being a “new self” you’ve never inhabited before; and presumably one you’ll never ever be again. Even during this TV show’s silliest situations, however, nobody gets humiliated the way many “reality” programs mistreat contestants today. It’s not difficult for these various straight men and women to smile broadly at the conclusion of each good natured gag.


The creators of the series must have had a blast making these shows, and it took a lot of preparation to set these various situations up — especially the many pieces that involved cars. If you watch this DVD, you’ll see cars split in half and go two different directions. You’ll watch as the back half of one unique car becomes detached, while the front half continues on down the road. You’ll even see a women pull into a service station after rolling down a hill, where the mechanic discovers she has no engine whatsoever under the hood. Furthermore, during the splitting car sequence, a series of taxi cab drivers are asked to follow a car. They’re then confused what to do when one half of it goes right, and the other half goes left.


It was not a show packed with Hollywood star quality, but there were nevertheless many celebrities that appeared on the series over the years. Dolly Parton pretended to be hurt and asked men to carry her to her car in a parking lot, for example, and Woody Allen plays a young businessman (this was before he gained fame as a movie director) who dictates a very un-businesslike love letter to an unsuspecting stenographer. One kid even gets the chance of a lifetime to spar with boxer Muhammad Ali. 


Many times, these silly situations occurred in places you’d least expect them to. For example, there’s an elevator that goes from side to side, rather than up and down. Also, a restroom sign is placed on a clothes closet. In both of these instances, the show smartly had various people coming out of the doors, so that unsuspecting dupes would get the impression these devices were working perfectly fine — at least for the setup folks.


One of the most elaborate sets featured Peter Funt at the front desk of a “dual” business. When customers visited for the first time, it was a quick film developing store. But before these customers returned for their pictures, the store would be quickly transformed into a dry cleaner — with different signs on the walls, racks of clothes, and even a woman standing across from Funt, ironing. In a similar ploy, a messenger visits a house, picks up a package, and is asked to return to that same house once the task is completed. But before the messenger can return, the house frame is taken apart and the space is turned into an empty lot with a “Property for Sale” sign in its place. One woman walks up and down the street six times before Funt finally lets her in on the joke. 


It matters not if these clips are black and white or in color; if they’re dated or modern; or if they’re simple or complex. They are all funny. The program played/plays on people’s good nature; albeit without offending. If nothing else, it’s reassuring to realize that good nature is still alive and well. Best of all, it’s good to know that we haven’t lost the ability to laugh at ourselves. And you’ll be laughing often when you watch this innocent little visual delight.

Rating:

Dan MacIntosh is a freelance writer from Bellflower, California,


discussion by

Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.