A 1960s episode of 'Candid Camera'
Everett Collection
August 4, 2022 8:30 AM EDT

The urge to play practical jokes—and laugh when those jokes are deployed successfully—is timeless and universal, so it only makes sense that with the rise of television in America came the arrival of the first hidden-camera reality TV show. Created by producer Allen Funt, Candid Camera began as a radio program called Candid Microphone before moving to TV in 1948, pioneering the winning formula of hidden-camera prank shows. Gags on Candid Camera, which continued to air in various forms until 2014, saw unsuspecting people encounter things like a car without a motor or spoons that melted when used to stir coffee, or adorable children attempting to complete difficult tasks. The original season of Candid Camera introduced the juxtaposition between a manipulated environment and authentic human reaction that would later be exemplified in many seasons of Punk’d, and international shows like Just For Laughs and Old Enough—all series where the genuine cluelessness of those being pranked merge beautifully with dry commentary and the audience’s awareness of the joke. —Mahita Gajanan

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