August 10, 1948: Smile, the Granddaddy of Television Prank Shows Debuts!

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A Brief History

On August 10, 1948, the American public first heard an unseen television announcer say, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”  In the infancy of public broadcasting, Candid Microphone, a  popular radio show, was adapted for television by creator and producer Allen Funt.

Digging Deeper

With over 1,000 episodes in 38 full or partial seasons, Candid Camera proved very popular.  Hosts included Funt, himself, Arthur Godfrey, Durwood Kirby, Dom DeLuise, Suzanne Somers and former beauty queens Phyllis George and Bess Myerson among others.

The idea was to have unsuspecting people spied on by a hidden camera while they were being subjected to pranks.  These could be regular people off the street or even celebrities.  Sometimes sets, such as fake job interviews, were used.  Audiences would laugh not only at the way people reacted to the staged funny business but also at their reaction to being told they were on Candid Camera.

Funt also made 2 movies, What Do You Say to a Naked Lady (1970) and Money Talks (1972).  Since nudity and adult content could not be shown on regular public television, a series called Candid Candid Camera went right to video tape.  These episodes were later shown on HBO and the Playboy Channel.  The success of the show and the movies spawned similar prank shows, and British and Australian versions were also produced.

If you have somehow missed the many reruns of the show, many episodes are available on VHS and DVD,  or you could just watch the modern copycat versions that go by various names.

Some people just do not like to get pranked (the author included) and become angry when they are the subject of such a stunt.  Question for students (and subscribers): Do you think it is okay for television shows to do this to people?  Let us know what you think and why in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please watch…

Candid Camera: 5 Decades of Smiles.  Rhino Theatrical, 2005.  DVD.

Funt, Allen, dir.  Candid Camera: Greatest Moments.  Rhino Theatrical, 2006.  DVD.

Funt, Allen, dir.  What Do You Say To A Naked Lady?  MGM, 2011.  DVD.

Lost Archives of Candid Camera.  Legendary Ent, 2013.  DVD.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.