Candid Camera is not only the world’s first reality comedy TV series, but it is one of the longest-running reality comedy series of all time, too. Although the show had its fair share of stops and starts that has several breaks from the screen, a familiar format of the show always returns. If you will sum it all up, Candid Camera had several versions that appeared on TV from 1948 to 2014. In this article, let’s take a look at the history of the show and find out what makes it so special to so many people from all over the world.
Candid Camera’s Early Days
Candid Camera started in the radio – it wasn’t called Candid Camera back then, it was known as Candid Microphone. Its first episode on the radio was aired in June 1947 and its format was similar to the TV show where the show would prank its guests in order to deliver a unique reaction from them. TV executives realized that the show would be a big hit if the people could see what was happening that’s why they quickly snatched it up for broadcast. Candid Microphone only aired on the radio for just a year before it became a TV show.
Allen Funt was the guy who created Candid Camera as well as Candid Microphone and he was also Candid Camera’s host for a long, long time. Funt used to serve in the military before he started out his radio career and it was at ABC Radio where he received the permission to make Candid Microphone.
How Candid Camera Worked
The show was built on a simple premise where ordinary and unsuspecting people who do not know that they are being filmed, would be put by the show in strange situations. Their reactions would be recorded and after they completely fall for the prank, the host of the show would reveal that it was all a joke by saying the iconic catchphrase, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.”
Although it may sound brutal to some but the show’s pranks were just harmless pranks and more often than not, the victims would just laugh off the situations they’re in.
TV Networks and Candid Camera
Candid Camera, which is still known as Candid Microphone, first aired on ABC in 1948. But the network could not continue the show for very long that’s why it was bought out by NBC. The network decided to change the show’s title from Candid Microphone to Candid Camera when they aired it in the fall of 1949. Back then, the show was sponsored by a famous cigarette manufacturer, Philip Morris. Candid Camera aired on NBC for two more years in which the show to gain more popularity that eventually it was allowed to move into syndication and from there, things took off for Candid Camera.
But in 1958, the show found its way back to NBC where it lost its status as a standalone show. Candid Camera became a minor segment on Jack Paar’s The Tonight Show. The following year, Candid Camera moved on to CBS where it was included as a small feature on The Garry Moore Show which is a show that was dedicated to finding and launching a new comedy superstar for the nation.
Candid Camera managed to regain its popularity during Candid Camera’s run on The Garry Moore Show. That’s why CBS executives gave the show its freedom and their own slot on the TV schedules again. Airing from 1960 to 1967, the show experienced its longest single run on TV with CBS.
But after airing for seven years, Candid Camera’s run on CBS ended. But ABC planned a 25th-anniversary episode for the show in 1974. The said episode received positive reviews and ratings that’s why the show was picked up again for a five-year run in syndication. After the syndication run was over, Candid Camera made was given a chance to do a singular return for its 35th year anniversary that aired on NBC.
And it took another four years before the show was aired on a semi-regular basis on CBS. And in 1991, Candid Camera was given another complete season run as a daily show in syndication from 1991 to 1992.
In 1996, the show returned for another special episode on TV for it’s 50th anniversary which aired on CBS. And this special episode once again fueled the audience’s appetite for a full-time return of Candid Camera. The show was then renewed and continued to be aired from 1996 to 2004. The show returned in 2014 but unfortunately, it only lasted for one season.
Candid Camera’s International Impact
Candid Camera’s popularity had an international impact to the point where a complete clone of the show which is also called Candid Camera aired in Britain for seven years in the 1960s. And later it triggered the rise of the show called ‘Trigger Happy TV” and Jeremy Beadle’s “Beadle’s About” show which was evidently inspired by the original Candid Camera. Australia also had their own version of the show in the 1990s and the Germans had theirs too which ran from 1980s to present day.
You may also read our article, “How Did Stand-Up Comedy Specials on Cable TV Catapult Comedians to Fame?” to learn about stand-up comedy and comedians in the 1980s.