Candid Camera


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

Candid Camera, the first and longest running reality-based comedy program, premiered on ABC 10 August 1948 under its original radio title Candid Microphone. The format of the program featured footage taken by a hidden camera of everyday people caught in hoaxes devised by the show's host Allen Funt. In the world of Candid Camera mailboxes talked to passers by, cars rolled along effortlessly without engines, little boys used x-ray glasses, and secretaries were chained to their desks--all to provoke a reaction from unsuspecting mechanics, clerks, customers and passers by. In a 1985 Psychology Today article, Funt explained his move to television by saying that he "wanted to go beyond what people merely said, to record what they did--their gestures, facial expressions, confusions and delights.

The program ultimately changed its name to Candid Camera when it moved to NBC in 1949 but did not gain a permanent time slot until it finally moved to CBS in 1960 under the guidance of Bob Banner Associates. For the next seven years it was consistently rated as one of television's top ten shows before it was abruptly canceled. Funt was frequently joined by guest hosts such as Arthur Godfrey, Durward Kirby and Bess Meyerson. A syndicated version of the program containing old and new material aired from 1974-78. Aided by his son Peter, Funt continued to create special theme episodes (e.g.: "Smile, You're on Vacation," "Candid Camera goes to the Doctor," etc.) for CBS until 1990 when The New Candid Camera, advised by Funt and hosted by Dom DeLuise went into syndication. Low ratings finally prevented King Productions from renewing the show for the 1992-93 season.

The scenarios designed and recorded by Funt and his crew were unique glimpses into the quirks and foibles of human nature never before deliberately captured on film. The average scenario lasted approximately five minutes and was based on one of five strategies. These "ideas" included reversing normal or anticipated procedures, exposing basic human weaknesses such as ignorance or vanity, fulfilling fantasies, using the element of surprise or placing something in a bizarre or inappropriate setting. As Funt noted: "You have to make lots of adjustments to create viewer believability and really involve the subject. You need the right setting, one in which the whole scenario will fit and make sense to the audience even when it doesn't to the actor." Finding the right setting, and the right people for Candid Camera stunts was not always an easy task.

Early attempts to film Candid Camera were hampered by technical, logistical and censorship difficulties. While they appeared simple, the staged scenes took many hours to prepare and success was far from guaranteed. Approximately fifty recorded sequences were filmed for every four to five aired on the program. Funt and his crew had to contend with burdensome equipment that was difficult to conceal. The cameras were often hidden behind a screen, but the lights needed for them had to be left out in the open. Would-be victims were told that the lights were part of "renovations." Microphones were concealed in boxes, under tables and, in a number of episodes, in a cast worn by Funt himself. In his book Eavesdropping at Large (1952), Funt also described his battles with network censors and sponsors who had never before confronted this type of programming and were often fickle in their decisions about what was and was not acceptable material for television at the time. Funt himself destroyed any material that was off color, or reached too deeply into people's private lives. A hotel gag designed to fool guests placed a "men's room" sign on a closet door. The funniest, but ultimately unaired reaction, came from a gentleman who ignored the obvious lack of accommodations and "used" the closet anyway.

Candid Camera's unique approach to documenting unexpected elements of human behavior was inspired in part by Funt's background as a research assistant at Cornell University. Here Funt aided psychologist Kurt Lewin in experiments on the behaviors of mothers and children. He also drew on his experiences in the Army Signal Corps where he was responsible for recording soldier's letters home. Candid Camera was different from other programming because of its focus on the everyday--on the extraordinary things that happen in ordinary, everyday contexts. "Generations have been educated to accept the characterizations of the stage and screen" Funt noted in his chronicle of the program's history. "Our audiences have to unlearn much of this to accept candid studies, although anyone can verify our findings just by looking around and listening."

Candid Camera spawned a new genre of "reality programming" in the late eighties including such shows as America's Funniest Home Videos and Totally Hidden Video. Television audiences were forced to become reflexive about their own role in the production of comedy and in thinking about the practices of everyday life. "We used the medium of TV well," Funt commented, "There were close ups of people in action. The audience saw ordinary people like themselves and the reality of events as they were unfolding. Each piece was brief, self-contained and the simple humor of the situation could be quickly understood by virtually anyone in our audience." Conceived in a less complex era free of camcorder technology, Candid Camera brought insight and humor into understanding both the potential of television and the role of the TV audience.

-Amy Loomis
 
HOST

Allen Funt

CO-HOSTS

Arthur Godfrey (1960-61)

Durward Kirby (1961-66)

Bess Myerson (1966-67)

Peter Funt (1990)

PRODUCER

Allen Funt

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

ABC

August 1948-September 1948   Sunday 8:00-8:30

October 1948   Sunday 8:30-8:45

November 1948-December 1948   Friday 8:00-8:30

NBC

May 1949-July 1949   Sunday 7:30-8:00

July 1949-August 1949   Thursday 9:00-9:30

CBS

September 1949-September 1950   Monday 9:00-9:30

NBC

June 1953   Tuesday 9:30-10:00

July 1953   Wednesday 10:00-10:30

CBS

October 1960-September 1967   Sunday 10:00-10:30

July 1990-August 1990   Friday 8:30-9:00

FURTHER READING

Brooks, T. & E. Marsh. The Complete Directory To Prime Time TV Shows 1946-present. New York: Ballentine, 1992.

Carey, P. "Catching Up with Candid Camera," Saturday Evening Post (Indianapolis, Indiana), 1992.

Funt, A. Eavesdropping at Large: Adventures in Human Nature with Candid Mike and Candid Camera. New York: Vanguard Press, 1952.

Zimbardo, P. "Laugh Where We Must, Be Candid Where We Can," Psychology Today (New York), 1985.

Highlights
Marge Greene on acting on Candid Camera, and the difficulties of working with Allen Funt
01:56
Saul Turteltaub on writing for and performing on Candid Camera
01:53
Sonny Fox on getting his first job on Candid Camera with Allen Funt
12:20
Charlie Andrews on Arthur Godfrey appearing on Candid Camera with Allen Funt
05:00
Joan Rivers on appearing on Candid Camera
02:37
Bernie Orenstein on his first writing job in the United States, on Candid Camera, and being paired up with Joan Rivers, who was also on the writing staff
01:22
Who talked about this show

Charlie Andrews

View Interview
Charlie Andrews on Arthur Godfrey appearing on Candid Camera with Allen Funt
05:00

Bob Banner

View Interview
Bob Banner on producing Candid Camera
09:46

Vin Di Bona

View Interview
Vin Di Bona on producing the 1991 revival of Candid Camera
03:13

Sonny Fox

View Interview
Sonny Fox on getting his first job on Candid Camera with Allen Funt
12:20

Marge Greene

View Interview
Marge Greene on joining the staff of Candid Camera
03:39
Marge Greene on meeting with Allen Funt and getting cast on Candid Camera, contd.
02:21
Marge Greene on Allen Funt being difficult to work for on Candid Camera; on her first stint on the show
03:37
Marge Greene on acting on Candid Camera, and the difficulties of working with Allen Funt
01:56
Marge Greene on preparations for production on Candid Camera
04:20
Marge Greene on some of her favorite moments on Candid Camera
11:38

Arnie Kogen

View Interview
Arnie Kogen on writing for Candid Camera and working for Allen Funt
03:52

Charles Lisanby

View Interview
Charles Lisanby on designing sets for Candid Camera
01:41

Bertram Van Munster

View Interview
Bertram van Munster on working with Allen Funt on Candid Camera as a camera operator

Bernie Orenstein

View Interview
Bernie Orenstein on his first writing job in the United States, on Candid Camera, and being paired up with Joan Rivers, who was also on the writing staff
01:22

Joan Rivers

View Interview
Joan Rivers on appearing on Candid Camera
02:37

Saul Turteltaub

View Interview
Saul Turteltaub on writing for and performing on Candid Camera
01:53
Saul Turteltaub on working with Allen Funt, host of Candid Camera
01:11

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