Saturday, January 4, 2014

Candid CANDID Camera! The greatest tv program you never saw!

If you're old (like me) you might remember the 1960s heyday of one of the first "reality" television shows, Candid Camera, hosted by Allen Funt.
He would film real people's genuinely funny reactions to innocent strange situations, like a talking mailbox. At the end of the bit, he'd walk out, the "victim" would recognize the famous host and realize they've been good-naturedly fooled, Allen would  point to the hidden camera, and proclaim the shows trademark line, "Smile! You're on Candid Camera!". In 1970 he got a little horny (like me) and moved from tv to the big screen with a more risque film titled, "What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?" 
Why couldn't he do this on tv?
It featured, wait for it- naked ladies.
Apparently he liked this new direction because in the 80s, for the new, less censored, cable tv outlets, he dove in the deep end of the Dirty Old Man pool and started Candid CANDID Camera.
I remember way back in the Mom and Pop video rental days when this series was collected on 6 (or so) vhs tapes and I'd watch 'em whenever I visited my friends Ron's house ('cause only his local rental place had 'em). Nothing much has been written about the show, official histories of Candid Camera skip over them (, maybe one line total on Wiki or INDB sums up the series, they aren't available on dvd, even the official Candid Camera website is just offering one old vhs tape of the series for $24.95 and there are no clips available on YouTube (that was my one hour of intensive research, I hope you enjoyed it) so I'm just writing from my spotty memory.
By the Candid Candid Camera time the elderly Mr. Funt was being held together by connecting age spots and resembled a jolly Gollum (not that I'm going to look any better in a few years) and was much more unsettling than the mainstream polished and tanned host norm. The amazing aspects of this late-night viewing was basically how creepy it was, like I had just stumbled across a secret Videodrone channel. The set-ups were always weirdly the same. An office consisting of a desk, chair and phone would be set up in the corner of a motel room, or two plywood walls pretening to be a business on edge of a gym floor or the edge of a lobby (you just couldn't tell- I'd always want the camera to pull back to solve the mystery). Alan would call the marks on the office phone (the voice seemed to echo as if he was a wall away) with instructions, mainly that a package would be arriving or to continue to answer the photo or just to describe the planned wackiness he was seeing while Allen responded as if he were making it up). The hallucinogenic gags were like, a 7 foot square of boxes were stacked on the floor and a woman's voice inside would exclaim, "I'm trapped!" (boxes she could easily push over). The employee would finally take away the obstruction to revel a nude woman and awkward conversation would ensue, or a gal would ride in on the set on a motorcycle nude (who needs a reason why?). Awkward conversation would ensue.
Now since this show seemed to have a budget of whatever change Allen had in his pocket, the hired help looked like they were a down on their luck bunch, picked up at Home Depot in the am, gotten from the $4 an hour Manpower agency or roused from a park bench. They were confused to begin with, and having to put up going without a drink while on the job (luckily I work at home and can drink all day long) naturally became more befuddled as the segment went on.
 The vhs quality was, vhs quality, so I couldn't quite tell, but I imagine everyone had bleeding gums.
After the "as nature intended" gal segment limped along finally Alan would Night of the Living Dead shuffle, arms outstretched, with a huge denture smile. Now it was time to play a new game, the game of "Do you recognize me?!" Again, way back when, I'm sure 90% of America knew Allen, but nowadays, especially with this confused group of marks, it was more of an effort. Allen would stare them down asking "You know me?" Often giving clues like "I'm Allen...?" "Do you remember Candid...?" or just go for it as if they knew, "Yes, I'm Allen Funt! And this is Candid Candid Camera!!"
He would take any bit of nodding or movement as an enthusiastic YES and do the one arm, now I've got you trapped, shoulder hug while pretending they were laughing together.
The middle america single "Candid" show kept reappearing in different shapes and sizes on the vhs dial years past this. The enjoyably uncharismatic son Peter Funt, with his one pained smile, kept it going with various co-hosts. They were odd fun watching too, but nothing will ever come close to the horrors of Candid Candid Camera!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I can’t believe you were able to find that. Haha! That is definitely a classic program. It's really nice that you were able to find it in its VHS format, as most people have already disposed their VHS tapes away and everything is in a digital format now. 
    Ruby Badcoe