What Would You Do? (also known as Primetime: What Would You Do?) is a hidden camera show that airs on ABC in the United States. The premise is, take a current hot-button issue, have actors play it out in public, and see if anyone steps in to help.Unlike most other hidden camera shows, however, this one is produced by ABC's news division, and is hosted by journalist John Quiñones. Comedy is NOT the name of the game here, and the show is instead more of a sociological experiment.Gained a spinoff in August 2013 known as Would You Fall For That?, which is essentially a Lighter and Softer version that doesn't focus on "serious" issues.Not to be confused with the early-90s Nickelodeon game show What Would You Do?.
This show provides examples of:
Adult Fear: Quite a few of the scenarios. For example:
Both Sides Have a Point: Very unusual for this show, as most scenarios are set up with a clearly defined morality problem but occasionally WWYD wouldn't explicitly side with either party.
One scenario focused on a pregnant teenager's decision to keep her child, and the adoptive parents-to-be who became distraught over the girl's decision.
In the scenario dealing with an extreme couponer in a supermarket who ends up holding up the line for over 20 minutes (including leaving the line and coming back with more items that she has coupons for), the show concedes that while it is perfectly okay to use all the coupons you want, it is not okay to piss people off by holding up the line.
In the scenario dealing with parental use of public shaming to discipline their children, where an actress playing an African-American mother made a boy actor playing her son wear a sandwich board in downtown South Orange, NJ, saying "suspended because I lied and stole", a white woman told her it was disgraceful and humiliating, but then a black woman expressed approval, pointing to the much higher rate of incarceration among young black men (which the show emphasized with a graphic) and said she didn't blame black parents for trying anything they could to make their kids behave.
Bratty Half-Pint: The focus of one scenario. The producers set up shop in a diner, gave the child actors Nerf guns (among other things), and told the kids to go nuts.
"Nothing prepared us for the man/woman we're about to meet."
Christmas Episode: Scenarios in the last episode before the holiday in 2013 were all built around the holiday: a family that couldn't afford the tree it wanted, Santa at a bar getting drunk before starting his shift etc.
Coming-Out Story: This is a scenario that WWYD explores quite often, since it's a current hot-button issue in the USA, and WWYD typically uses it whenever they visit other cities. They also mix it up a bit: usually they play it with a child coming out to a parent, but they've also done it with a parent coming out to a child, a wife/fiancée/girlfriend coming out to her husband/fiancé/boyfriend, or vice versa. Usually it's played with the recepient of the Word of Gay freaking out, in order to elicit reactions from people.
Conspicuously Light Patch: A variation. Most of the time in crowd shots, people whose faces are not obscured are usually people who will be interviewed about their action (or lack thereof).
Crazy-Prepared: Justified. Whenever WWYD stages a scenario, they keep a security guy nearby to keep the actors safe, and they inform emergency services ahead of time just in case someone calls 911 (which people have).
Cross Dresser: A Halloween scenario had a "mother" in a Staten Island costume store upset that her son wanted to be a Disney princess, or that her daughter wanted to be Spider-Man.
Date Rape Averted: Very often, people don't let the drugged/drunk/intoxicated girl walk away with the obviously less-than-unsavory fellow who has made it apparent that he's got one thing on his mind.
Somewhat averted in one scenario, in which a man spikes his date's drink in a crowded bar. Many people saw it, but only two confronted the guy straight up, while others only spoke up after the woman started to complain either of sudden illness or the drink's taste. Those people took action by telling her not to drink from her glass, buying her another drink, and/or giving advice not to drink something left unattended, but never saying that he spiked it.
Fully averted in one scenario where someone witnessed the spiking but said nothing. When the actress started to feign feeling ill, and the actor playing the guy wanted to take her to his home, The Mark got up and left (only telling another patron the guy was "cheating" before leaving). When the camera crew caught up to the mark, he refused to speak to them.
The gender flipped version is shown as well. Men were quite reluctant to inform a man if a woman put something in his drink.
One episode featured a teenage boy borrowing a roofie from a friend in order to use it on a girl. There were several interventions, and in one instance, a nearby off-duty police officer flashed his badge and gave the lad a stern warning.
Deliberately Cute Child: Two segments had a young boy and girl sell hideously overpriced lemonade (in New Jersey) and sweet tea (in Texas). A large cup with a straw, napkin, and umbrella was 30 dollars. Thankfully even Children Are Innocent was averted, with most of the marks calling the kids out on how unfair the pricing was and when the girl actor tried to use a "times are tough" excuse the mark called her out. The pair did manage to make 59 dollars (It was all given back). She even made twenty due to how sweet she was being.
One episode dealt with bike thefts. A Caucasian male in his twenties was stopped. An African-American male in his twenties was stopped. A buxom blonde in her twenties got guys to help her.
A businessman left his car, which contained an estimated $10,000 worth of goods, unlocked and unattended. A young Caucasian male got stopped a lot of the time, a young African-American male got stopped all of the time, but a pretty blonde was even able to call over guys to help her carry the expensive stuff out of the car.
Education Mama: One scenario was focused around a mother publicly berating her child for getting an A minus in a diner. The other patrons around them were put off by this. The only person to come to the defense of the mother was an older Asian man who advised the other patrons to stay out of it since they didn't know the circumstances that led to the mother's actions.
Enforced Method Acting: Sometimes, an actor playing in a scenario will be profoundly moved by people getting involved, and will have a cry while still in character. One notable incident was when a waiter berated a lesbian couple in front of their children and a fellow restaurant patron later approached the couple with a lengthy handwritten letter. One of the actresses was herself a lesbian parent.
Everything Is Big in Texas: The show had one episode in which they took a bunch of previous scenarios and watched how they played out in the Dallas area to see if they would turn out differently from in the North. The Idiosyncratic Wipes of some episodes invoke Texas stereotypes, including cattle brands, star-shaped tin sheriff badges, cowboy boots, and Western-style fonts. A few mark reactions had conservative and faith-based bents, and nearly all reactions followed the "be good to others" Aesop that WWYD enjoys showcasing.
One scenario was a waitress berating gay parents in a restaurant. There were some people had the conservative and faith-based bents but the show noted that more Texans spoke out against the waitress berating gay parents than people did in the North. One guy even invoked and paraphrased Jesus to the waitress, telling her, "Don't judge."
419 Scam: The focus of one scenario, except tweaked a bit so that it played out via a very public Skype conversation in a New Jersey coffeehouse.
Fourth Wall Mail Slot: The WWYD crew did a special that was based on viewer submissions, entitled How Would You Do It?
Friday Night Death Slot: As of this writing (May 2014) it sits at 8:00 on Friday, although it seems to be doing pretty good for the time being.
Gender Flip: Often the show will replay similar scenarios but change the genders of the actors.
Girl on Girl Is Hot: Played with during one scenario featuring gay couples kissing in public. When two guys made out, there were abundant protests, including a 911 call and police response (the officer did not know the show had been cleared and got the informing call just as he approached the pair). When it was a female couple, however, there were some protests, but much less than with the guys, and a LOT more male staring. When a group of businessmen were questioned afterwards, they admitted that this trope came into play.
One episode had a twentysomething blonde girl canoodling with an elderly man in a bar. It was made quite obvious to the bar patrons that the girl was only in it for the money, and aside from a few odd stares, very few people spoke up.
They repeated the scenario with a Gender Flip: young guy, old lady. Again, it got a few stares, but not really any straightforward intervening.
One scenario has a family discussing this at a restaurant. In another, a teenage girl approaches patrons at a drugstore to ask if they'll buy her some Plan B, because she's too shy and/or embarrassed to do it herself.
Another episode in Texas had a pregnant teenaged girl publicly mull over whether to get an abortion. All of the people who spoke up suggested she keep the baby.
Has Two Mommies / Daddies: One segment had a patron at a restaurant react negatively to a gay couple eating there with their children. It was repeated on the Dallas roadtrip episode, with the waiter throwing them out, which is legal in Texas.
Hey, It's That Place!: Watch the show long enough and you'll notice that they repeatedly use a few of the same neighborhoods and businesses in the Connecticut/New York/New Jersey area. So far, no marks have noticed, but one wonders when they're going to start.
Hypocritical Humor: The show's most popular segment (based on a viewer poll and ensuing special) had a group of girls bullying another one in a park near a busy walkway. Almost every woman who passed by chose to intervene ... and often made disparaging remarks about the girls doing the bullying that were as bad or worse than the girls had, sometimes using profanity (which the producers had told the actresses not to do so as not to allow that as an excuse for intervening).
Improv: Aside from some background information and some general guidelines on how to act, the actors do the scenarios completely in improv.
Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Subverted, and then some, by a scenario on the episode based on viewer ideas. A wheelchair-bound woman, who had sent the idea in, played herself in a Nyack, NY, supermarket as an actress not only went up to her and gushingly lampshaded the trope, she went on to patronizingly do things for her that she was clearly capable of doing for herself, even wheeling her around at one point. All were things the woman said had happened to her. Most of the passersby reacted by telling the actress to calm down and back off.
Insult Comic: One scenario had a actual comic make repeated jokes at the expense of a man with a younger Asian wife (actors) in a Manhattan comedy club in front of an audience mostly composed of tourists to see whether anyone would react. Some did, mostly in disgust; however one young group, mostly black or Hispanic, found it hysterically funny and were unapologetic about it, beyond not giving their names and letting the show blur their faces.
For some scenarios, the actors have to play them to provoke reactions.
For some scenarios, it's the marks with the rude/offensive actions.
Lampshade Hanging: Hilariously, more and more marks are beginning to mention that the scenarios feel like that TV show called What Would You Do?
Maligned Mixed Marriage: Some scenarios involve actors playing an interracial couple getting harassed by other actors.
Mama Bear: If the set-up involves a child in danger or distress, many female bystanders display a fierce maternal instinct. A great example is Renee Wood, one of the women in the polygamist child bride scenario, who swats the other actors aside and pulls the crying "victim" to safety.
The Mark: Most often, it's just some random passersby rather than anyone specific. Although on some occasions they center a scenario on one specific person or group.
Mean Character, Nice Actor: During the reveal, it's not uncommon to see the Mark be a little unnerved while shaking hands with the friendly actor who was a complete Jerkass just minutes ago.
Nice to the Waiter: The actors being mean to waiters, nannies, or supermarket checkout clerks with Down Syndrome tends to be a major Berserk Button for the marks.
Off The Wagon: Largely defied in a scenario where an actor went to a busy bar on Long Island, claiming to be celebrating his first year of sobriety and wanting to have just one drink. Almost everybody there pointedly refused to buy him one.
Once an Episode: In nearly every episode, there's always at least one person who ends up unintentionally lampshading a scenario by saying something along the lines of, "I feel like I'm on that show What Would You Do? right now!"
Panty Thief: They set this one up in a laundromat, and had a male actor take panties from a WWYD actress' dryer. It seriously pissed off several laundromat patrons.
Parental Favoritism: This was done at a clothing store in Merrick, New York. It got quite a few emotional reactions from passersby, including an impassioned "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the favoritist mother from a teacher moved to tears.
Playing Drunk: The actors do this with scenarios that deal with public drunkenness, and they do it very well.
Precision F-Strike: More often than not, people will drop F bombs while interceding in a tense situation.
One scenario, inspired by the third-season Modern Family episode "Little Bo Bleep" (which just coincidentally also runs on ABC) had a preschool-age girl very much like Lilly in the show (down to being the obviously-adopted Asian daughter of a white mother) innocently tell a stranger the new word (or, in some variations, gesture) she just learned from Mommy (who had just stepped away for a moment).
They'll run a scenario with a person/group of one race, then they'll run it again with a person/group of another, in order to see if reactions differ.
Another variant is to make the person/group look poorer or richer than they had in a previous runthrough. It sometimes makes a difference—passersby on a street in affluent Westchester County, NY, were critical and unforgiving of a woman who threw her squabbling children out of the car and left them behind when she smoked, wore drab, older clothes and drove a slightly beat up car; but when she and the kids were dressed stylishly and she drove a pricey SUV, no one seemed to care. On the other hand, people were more critical of someone who took money from a homeless person's plate to pay for a cup of coffee when they were dressed in nice suits and got out of a limo.
Reality Ensues: As noted at Deconstructed Trope, above, many scenarios are taken from popular movies or TV shows, including some common tropes to show how they would play out in real life.
This got lampshaded in one of the tensest segments on the show. They went to South Padre Island, TX, for spring break and had two of their younger actresses get fake-drunk and then give the marks a chance to avert a potential date rape. In one, after they'd made the girls look a little skankier, some guy sidled right up next to them at the bar and began trying to pick them up ... before the actor who was supposed to do that could start doing it. They told the girls to just play it the way they were supposed to, then quickly shifted and told the actor to become the guy looking out for the girls, i.e. what one of the marks usually do.
Reality Subtext: Some of the actors and actresses talk to Quiñones about how they've dealt with the scenario themselves in Real Life.
Refuge in Audacity: At one point during the Bratty Half-Pint scenario listed above, they had the actress playing their mother get up and leave the kids to take a phone call. One of the marks later said it was too ridiculous to believe.
The Reveal: "Hi, I'm John Quiñones, and this has all been a part of a TV show called What Would You Do?..."
Ripped from the Headlines: Many scenarios have this. It was notable in an episode that had actors playing a polygamous family similar to those from the real life FLDS controversy in Texas.
Rousseau Was Right: The show likes to showcase when this trope is played straight, but it doesn't always happen that way.
Secret Test of Character: The show performs wide-scale versions of these in public places. The name itself points to this trope: "in this situation, what would you do?"
Slut Shaming: In the episode where a teenage girl attempts to fill a birth control prescription. Everybody (including the actress playing the girl) agrees that she should just wait to have sex. The problem with this is that this sort of medication is prescribed for many things including bad cramps, PCOS, endometriosis, and acne.
Barbara Corcoran has appeared as herself, and a scenario in which the actors play prospective Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? contestants who openly attempt to cheat on the entrance exam, host Meredith Vieira appeared as herself.
Take That, Critics!: Quiñones started an episode by playing an angry voicemail from a female viewer in Arizona note regarding a previous segment that featured racial profiling against Latinos , which told the reporter to "go back to Mexico." Quiñones, who is a seventh generation American citizen, took the crew to a restaurant on the Arizona/Mexico border and recorded people coming to the defense of undercover actors (and an undercover Quiñones himself) being racially profiled by a Caucasian actor. At the end of the segment, they played back the voicemail and contrasted it with the footage of the Arizonan Good Samaritans, and the rhetoric seemed to convey a huge "screw you" to the naysayer.
For example, they once had a domestic spat in a park.
When the man was one the aggressing one, several people called the police. The man just had to yell at the woman to elicit response.
After the Gender Flip, most passersby chuckled and assumed he had it coming. The woman ended up beating the man over the head with a newspaper, and even then the only people who did anything were a group of female joggers, who gave the woman a warning and secretly hung back to see if she followed. When she started hitting him again, they called the cops. Another woman called the abusive actress a "role model" for women. One of the men who ignored it was an off-duty cop.
What You Are in the Dark: The show will often interview various people off the street on what they would do in a certain situation, then contrast it to with what other people actually do when witnessing the situation on hidden camera.
An actress named Traci Hovel, who appears in several roles that require a woman in her thirties (her roles have ranged from beleaguered waitress to supermarket con artist to lazy EMT). Sharp-eyed viewers might notice that she occasionally gets Demoted to Extra whenever WWYD runs scenarios in restaurants or stores, and in those cases she usually takes on the minor role of clerk or waitress (or even fellow patron) just in case a customer needs someone to vent to. From the looks of things, the poor woman works the job itself for the day.
An actor named Jeremy Holm, who like Traci participates in a wide range of scenarios, and frequently takes on a waiter role. Quiñones mentioned in one narration that Jeremy works as a waiter in Real Life whenever he doesn't have an acting job.
Quiñones lampshades the trope in one episode, when he identifies one actor playing an anti-Semetic store clerk as having played a racist clerk in two other WWYD scenarios.
The Utah episode, where an info pop-up on the bottom of the screen points out that this is the17th timethe actor playing the abusive husband/boyfriend has played a villain in such a scenario.
In a scenario where two young men in fatigues went into a bar, supposedly just back from deployments in Afghanistan, and tried to order drinks despite being underage, one mark turned out to have been in the scenario described under Off The Wagon, above.