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Series / Candid Camera

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Smile, you're on Candid Camera!

A Reality TV show that worked by secretly recording ordinary people's reaction to pranks presenting strange situations staged by the crew.

The original show began radio as The Candid Microphone in 1947 and was created and produced by Allen Funt. After a few theatrical live action shorts under that title, the TV version premiered in 1948 and has ran off and on ever since. It used hidden cameras to film ordinary people in unusual situations, such as a desk with drawers that pop open when one is closed. When the joke was revealed, the victims would be greeted with the catchphrase "Smile, you're on Candid Camera." Celebrities were regularly featured as well, either as victims of or as participants in a prank. Participants in gags included Woody Allen, Muhammad Ali and Buster Keaton.

It is, needless to say, the Trope Namer and Trope Codifier for the Candid Camera Prank.

There was a poorly received syndicated version in the 1990s starring Dom De Luise. Another incarnation starred Allen's son Peter Funt and Suzanne Somers, and ran from 1998 until 2000 on CBS, then on PAX until 2004 where Somers was replaced by Dina Eastwood. Another revival began on TV Land in August 2014, retaining Peter Funt, but adding Mayim Bialik as co-host. Some of the pranks in the 2014 version are played by Peter's son Danny.

This show provides examples of the following:

  • Advert-Overloaded Future: One of the gags of the 2014 season tried to convince people it was here. It involved a television marketed for $89.95 that was a 60" television, but only had 11" of viewable space and the rest was locked into advertising. It even stated on the TV screen itself "picture lock technology," though nobody seemed to notice or comment on that.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The British version once successfully (pretended to have) closed an entire county, only allowing vehicles in as others came out.
    • The American version did a similar prank, except it was the state of Texas that they "closed".
    • The Bavarian fire drill was, in fact, a standard operating procedure for many of the show's pranks, which often involved the pranker (often one of the Funts) dressing up as some sort of public official and seeing how people reacted to some ridiculous rule or law they were supposedly enforcing.
  • Candid Camera Prank: The whole point of the show. It is the Trope Namer, after all.
  • Cutting the Knot: Sometimes the prank victims got the better of the show. One prank involved a pair of escalators that both went up (they switched the second one so that it went down, leaving any unfortunate passengers stuck on the landing). One woman simply reached down and hit the Emergency Stop button present on all escalators and continued on her way.
  • Decoy Damsel: Used several times. In one instance, a frail blond Damsel in Distress would be deposited on some street corner with two large suitcases. The suitcases looked identical, but one was empty and the other was filled with concrete, weighing at least 200 pounds. When some big strong man approached, she would ask him to help with her suitcases...then she would pick up the empty suitcase and walk away while the hidden camera recorded the reaction of the poor schmo who tried to pick up the other suitcase.
    • Husky Russkie: Subverted when they tried the trick in Moscow. The blonde pulled the routine on a burly Russian pedestrian...who picked up the 200-pound suitcase and followed her effortlessly.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The show's full Catchphrase was "Don't be surprised if sometime, somewhere, someplace when you least expect it, someone steps up to you and says.... 'Smile, you're on Candid Camera.'" The latter two, "somewhere" and "someplace" mean essentially the same thing.
  • The Movie: Funt made two movies with the same premise — What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? and Money Talks.
  • National Anthem: One prank involved setting up a fake Canadian border on an isolated road the middle of the US, and then prank the hapless victims who happen to be using the road into thinking they've arrived at the Canadian border and must sing the Canadian national anthem, O Canada, to cross.
  • Poe's Law: Backfired badly for Allen Funt in Real Life, when a plane he was traveling on was hijacked to Cuba. Some passengers noticed that Funt was on board, and thought the hijacking must be a gag. It wasn't.
  • Reaching Between the Lines: There was a stunt where a person talking on the phone suddenly sneezed. The victim, at the other end, was then sprayed with water from a gadget in the receiver. The victims reacted with disgust, at least until Fridge Logic kicked in.
  • Rearrange the Song: The show's famous theme song had a different arrangement with each new version of the program. One notable arrangement was the arrangement done by Little Richard.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Candid Candid Camera was a direct-to-video spinoff featuring coarse language and nudity; it aired a few times on HBO in the early 80s.
  • Schmuck Bait: A key component of many pranks.
    • Inverted once when they put, in a public place, a bowl full of money with a sign that said "FREE MONEY". Nobody touched it, assuming it was Schmuck Bait.
  • Signing-Off Catchphrase: "Don't be surprised if sometime, somewhere, someplace, when you least expect it, someone steps up to you and says... 'Smile, you're on Candid Camera!'" Often preceded by a variant of something like "So whether you're out shopping at the mall, going to the movies, or just relaxing at the cafe after a day at work..."
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: The 1998 series frequently had bleeped-out swearing from the victims.
  • Sound-to-Screen Adaptation: The show began on radio as Candid Microphone.
  • The Television Talks Back: Once done on the French version with a victim who was watching Questions pour un champion, just as the guy found the answer to a question about a TV show where people are pranked on tape.
  • Title Drop: Regularly, when they tell people at the end of the pranks to "Smile, you're on Candid Camera." Additionally, the show films pranks in locations throughout the United States, leading to an extended version of the Catchphrase at the end of the show when the hosts warn us that "Don't be surprised if sometime, somewhere, someplace when you least expect it, someone steps up to you and says 'Smile, you're on Candid Camera!"
  • Title Theme Tune: "With our hocus pocus, you're in focus, it's your lucky day! Smile, you're on Candid Camera!"
  • Ur-Example: For many similar successor shows down the ages, like Britain's Game For A Laugh in the 1980s.