Was Candid Camera The Beginning Of Reality TV?

(PCM) Nowadays it feels like reality television has taken over airwaves with shows such as the “Real Housewives” of whatever city, “Survivor”, and of course the “Kardashians”, but where did this trend really begin?

Many feel that the takeover began MTV began airing their housemate reality series “The Real World” back in the early 90’s, which was followed by the reality competition series “Road Rules” and then of course Mr. Reality TV himself, Mark Burnett came into the picture and created the “Survivor” franchise, as well as, “The Apprentice”, “The Celebrity Apprentice” and “Shark Tank” in the early 2000’s.

But, really where did this reality television craze truly begin?

We chalk it up to a man named Allen Funt and his hilarious hidden camera prank series originally titled “The Candid Microphone” when it debuted as a radio program on June 28, 1947, however it quickly moved to television in August of 1948 when it was renamed “Candid Camera” and continued to air into the 1970’s.

The show did a few specials in the 1980’s and then came upon a resurgence, mostly due to the increase in reality television demands in the 1990’s. Funt, who died in 1999, hosted or co-hosted all versions of the show until he became too ill to continue. His son Peter Funt, who had co-hosted the specials with his father since 1987, became the producer and host.

“Candid Camera’s” premise was simple, yet brilliant! The show involved concealing cameras filming ordinary people being confronted with unusual situations, sometimes involving trick props, such as a desk with drawers that pop open when one is closed or a car with a hidden extra gas tank. When the joke was revealed, victims would be told the show’s catchphrase, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.”

The results were hilarious! Nothing like laughing at other’s misfortunes, right? Many times the show would even prank popular celebrities at the time. There have been many copycat show concepts to the original “Candid Camera” format notably MTV’s “Punk’d”, however none of them could even seem to nail the formula that worked so well for the initial series.

We think Peter Funt said it best in the 2010 interview when he said, “We’ve always come at it from the idea that we believe people are wonderful and we’re out to confirm it. Our imitators and other shows, whether it’s Jamie Kennedy or Punk’d, often seem to come at it from the opposite perspective, which is that people are stupid, and we’re going to find ways to underscore that.”

“Candid Camera” has even been used for college research when in 1964 Cornell University requested the shows archives to use as psychological and sociological studies. Pretty cool! Wish our college classes had required us to laugh at classic episodes of “Candid Camera”! So jealous!

Needless to say, the “Candid Camera” series certainly cemented its’ place within the history of pop culture and definitely played a pivotal role in the creation of reality television as we know it today.

 

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