"You know I like to think of my job as holding a mirror up to the face of America. I don't... offer to help you shave, or comb your hair. Or check for cellulite. I just hold the mirror. Look at yourselves."
—Tom Bergeron, on the show.
Long-running television series that features home video clips sent in by viewers, and has aired on ABC since its debut as a special in November 1989. At the end of most episodes, the producers pick three clips for the studio audience to vote on for prizes of $2,000, $3,000, and $10,000; the big money winner goes on to compete with other weekly winners for a $100,000 prize later in the season.The show can be considered the proto-Reality Show concept, as it existed through audience interaction. AFHV has gone through three "eras", being originally hosted by comedian Bob Saget until 1997, then by Daisy Fuentes and John Fugelsang from 1998-99. Over 1999-2000 it existed as occasional specials rather than a regular series, but it returned to the old format in 2001 with Tom Bergeron as host and has remained an ABC fixture since. (A lot of people are only familiar with the Bob Saget version... which is odd, because usually the Bergeron episodes are the only ones that ever air nowadays. And the show is heavily promoted, so you'd have to have lived under a rock since the late 1990s to not know this show is still on, and has a different host.)It has been described as the ur-YouTube (or the ur-FAIL Blog, in some aspects), only with more Bob Saget.
This show provides examples of:
The Announcer: ABC staff announcer Ernie Anderson, best known for his bumpers for The Loooooooove Boat, was the announcer until his death. (In one episode, Anderson's illustrious past was pointed out by Saget and he even gave the audience a thrill by saying The Loooooooove Boat one more time.) Gary Owens announced the show from 1995 to 1997, and voice actor Jess Harnell (famous as the voice of Wakko Warner on Animaniacs) took over after Owens left.
Artistic License - History: A U.S. Military-themed episode featured a montage based on "Great American Inventions". One of the inventions in this montage was the telephone (which is, y'know, Canadian).
Biting-the-Hand Humor: An unusual case — the show has its enforced plugs for ABC's corporate parent Disney (see below), but aside from those grand prize shows Disney hasn't stopped them from running home videos that don't paint the Disney Theme Parks in the best light, such as costumed characters falling off of parade floats or scaring toddlers, and a memorable clip of The Hall of Presidents's Abraham Lincoln animatronic slowly falling backwards at the waist during his big speech. Even better, one season finale shot at Disney World had Bergeron joke that when his daughters go there, the three things they're most excited to see are "Mickey, Minnie, and Daddy's Wallet."
Double Standard: There have been dozens of video clips involving a mother secretly recording her teenage son showering to embarrass him, all of which have aired. When one father sent in a clip of him secretly recording his teenage daughter showering, the clip never aired and the producers accused him of being a pervert.
Tom Bergeron's first season as host has this too. The set doesn't have the slick, neon design it's known for now, Bergeron's hair is black instead of grey, he tried to make silly voices over the videos much like Bob Saget did, the audience members dressed much more casually than they do now, and perhaps the most startling of all, Bergeron occasionally did a lot of Biting-the-Hand Humor; making jokes about how he's only hosting this show because he can't get work elsewhere, or that he's waiting for a better break to come by. You'd never hear him make a joke like that today.
Enforced Plug: In the Bergeron era, there's plenty of shilling for the show's website, where videos can be viewed and/or posted for future contests, as well as the occasional visit from performers from other ABC reality shows (such as Dancing with the Stars, also hosted by Bergeron). Above all is the constant hyping of Disney Theme Parks: Disney owns ABC and most grand prizes now include trips to them or whatever their newest vacation venture is. That means that several episodes, usually season finales, have been filmed at the hyped locales and have Bergeron visiting the rides and whatnot. There have also been segments during non-event shows that were nothing more than ads for Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons, and clips "presented" by Denny's, Pepperidge Farm, etc.
In the show's beginning, the consolation prizes were RCA products like TVs, camcorders and VCRs (and promoted as such), which was ironic because RCA was formerly the longtime owner of rival network NBC, but by Season 2 all three winners got cash (probably because it was redundant to give runner-ups cameras and VCRs, along with the usual travel costs for contestants to LA being not so worth it for a near-$900 prize you had to pay taxes on), while the RCA plugs were edited out of the syndicated versions, giving the revisionist effect that the runners-up got nothing in Season 1.
The Faceless: The offscreen assistant who would hand Bob the voting results toward the end of every episode. Also a Butt Monkey, as Bob would spout witty insults at this person's expense.
Foregone Conclusion: See Spotlight-Stealing Squad below: If a baby/toddler/little kid make it to the finals, go ahead and change the channel - they're probably going to win. Especially if said child is behaving like a complete brat.
A Peruvian version was attempted, but with only one episode made. And by the channel that aired the original show.
A Russian version, called roughly "Self-made Director", exists since 1992 and isn't going to disappear anytime soon.
From Special To Series: It began as an hour-long special hosted by Bob Saget and Kellie Martin in November 1989; it was brought back as a weekly series two months later with Saget in tow, and has aired ever since with two host changes since then (with the minor exception of a period from the fall of 1998 to the summer of 2001, when in an inversion of this trope, it was reduced to a series of specials).
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Saget didn't get much if any while he hosted the show, but he gets some amazing lines past when he comes back during a Bergeron episode.
Not to mention one episode featured a clip of a preadolescent girl accidentally flashing the camera and being completely uncensored. If a video has the risk of getting you arrested if it's on your computer, odds are it probably shouldn't be aired on national television.
Home Game: Yes, even this show had one. It even came with a tape full of clips, of course.
Once an Episode: Saget almost always signed off with a joke beginning with the phrase "And honey..." (except for the tail end of his run; see below). Bergeron does slo-mo replays of the "honorable mentions" from each show, in a spoof of inspiring montages.
During Bergeron's first season, he would do a segment he called, "Ask Tom Stuff", where he would read off questions supposedly sent to him (but are so ridiculous, you pretty much know they're made up for the show), and he would offer his advice for the askers in the form of videos.
Each season usually ends with each of the winners from the season gathering together to compete for the $100,000 prize at the end of the season.
Later into the Bergeron era, the show would travel to one of the various different Disneyland locations around the world, where Tom would try and soak up the local culture, in a comical fashion. Otherwise, we would return to the original Disneyland, where Tom would let his inner child loose, and worm his way into different rides and attractions, or mingle with the costumed characters of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto.
Previously On: Parodied in the Bergeron era — for several seasons, each episode opened with him intoning "Previously on AFV..." and a quick montage of particularly silly clips from the actual previous episode followed.
Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: A classic clip featured Carlos Jones, a black boy with a pronounced accent who shouted out the alphabet letter by letter. ("Aeh! Beh! Ceh! Deh!", etc.)
Reality Subtext: Saget's last two episodes did not have him do the "And honey..." closer. By that point, his marriage was crumbling and eventually resulted in a divorce.
Rearrange the Song: Jill Colucci's "The Funny Things You Do" was remixed in Saget's last season, and remixed again for the Bergeron version to the point that it no longer resembles the original.
Rule of Cute: Clips of cute kittens, puppies, and especially cute babies have a high chance of winning, even if they're not particularly funny.
Bergeron frequently jokes about how pinatas and trampolines remain popular, despite all the havoc they've caused over the years.
She's Got Legs: Note during the host segments that rarely (if ever) is a female audience member sitting near the front row wearing pants. They almost always are young and have a skirt that doesn't cover the knees.
Signing Off Catch Phrase: Bob Saget would always say "keep those cameras safely rolling" and follow it up with "And honey... [insert comment to wife here]." Tom Bergeron's was "If you get it on tape, you could get it in cash" and was later chanaged to "Upload it to us, get rich, get famous."
The Daisy Fuentes and John Fugelsang episodes ended with the much less memorable "If you get it in the groin, you could get it in coin". Very clearly reworked into Bergeron's original Signing Off Catch Phrase.
Musical Slapstick Montage: Every show has at least one; in the Bergeron era there are usually two. One uses a radio favorite (old or new), and one uses an instrumental, usually a public domain classical piece.
The Pratfall: Countless amateur versions have been displayed.
America's Funniest People ran from 1990-94 and was hosted by Dave Coulier — another Full House performer — and a female co-host (Arleen "Harley Quinn" Sorkin from 1990-92, Tawny Kitaen from 1992-94). The videos sent in to this show were of people intentionally being funny, and combined the clips with appearances by comedians and original Sketch Comedy segments.
Coulier later hosted a shorter-lived spinoff, The World's Funniest Videos.
Producer Vin Di Bona repackaged clips from both Funniest Home Videos and Funniest People for Fox Family Channel's Show Me the Funny and syndication's That's Funny.
Stock Sound Effects: Often used, moreso in the Saget era. Other times, they swiped sound effects from elsewhere on ABC, including the "Clang" from Family Feud.
Technology Marches On: Yes, you can still send a tape or DVD to the famous "Box 4333, Hollywood, California, 9-double0-78" address, but now you can also submit a clip via the show's website, which undoubtedly helps the archivists and producers considerably.
This Loser Is You: Most likely the main appeal of the show, and the reason people have kept on watching. Even lampshaded in the original theme song: "America, America, this is you!"
Three-Dimensional Episode: Which also happened to be a Full HouseReunion Show during an ABC 3-D gimmick week. Incredible awkwardness ensued as poor Saget had to toss objects at the screen to indulge the annoying gimmick while everyone else was there to see the freaking cast of Full House for the first time in two years after the show's cancellation. Oh, and it was also Saget's second-to-last episode.
Uranus Is Showing: The clip with the mom trying to get the kid to say 'Uranus' during a planet quiz, and he kept saying "my anus" instead.
Another kid can recite the names of all the planets, but prefers not to mention Uranus, because people always laugh at that.
We All Live in America: Why have there been so many British and Canadian clips on America's Funniest Home Videos?
Artistic License - Physics: Invoked. During a game of "Head, Gut, or Groin", for a clip of a man diving off a diving board into a pool, a female audience member guessed he would hit his head on the diving board, even though his head was far away from it. Tom Bergeron asked her, "What was your grade in Physics?"
Groin Attack: Very much present in the early episodes, and still frequent today. One milestone show in the Bergeron era counted down "The Greatest Groin Hits".
Indeed, if you ask your average "man on the street" to describe the prototypical AFHV clip, they'll probably say something like "guy getting whacked in the crotch by a golf club."
They've made an audience game of it: "Head, Gut, or Groin", which shows the start of a clip and has the contestants predict who's going to get hit where.
One season opening had Bergeron pointing out how many groin hits they had aired so far (some several thousand). The average was "about seven and a half groin hits per show, which begs the question who is that poor man with half a groin, and why do people keep hitting him there?
And of course the Daisy Fuentes and John Fugelsang episodes signed off with the phrase "If you get it in the groin, you could get it in coin", showing that everyone on the production was aware of it.
Genre Blind: If you see someone on a bike on a slope very near you, or get a pinata, you'd know to move, right? Well, not so much, even if they see it coming from a mile away.
Mall Santa: Christmas-season episodes truck out unfortunate experiences with faux-Santas at the mall and elsewhere. A popular early clip had a kid comment "Boy, do you have bad breath!" to one.
Rule of Pool: To the point that another audience game ("Who's Going In?") is based around it. It's not always a pool, though — any body of water big enough for a good fully-clothed dunk will do.
School Play: Amateur plays are a constant provider of collapsing sets, stumbling performers, unruly dogs, etc. to this show.
Wardrobe Malfunction: Sometimes a person will point out a person's zipper is undone, a person's shirt will get closed in a car door, or yes, a woman's bra will either fall off or accidently be yanked off exposing her breasts (and up go the censor bars). This show uses jokes like this that no sitcom would dare using, because it is Real Life.