Created by America's Allen Funt, 'Candid Camera' was exported to Britain in 1960, with Bob Monkhouse as host. The best remembered prank was the 'car-with-no-engine', perpetrated by arch-joker Jonathan Routh.
My earliest memory, though, is the '70's version, hosted by its producer, the late Peter Dulay, who occasionally participated in the pranks. It went out on Saturday nights, and was often hysterically funny. I've give you a few examples; a man in a phone box panics when it suddenly rises into the air; a milkman tries to interest regulars in multi-coloured milk; a secretary instructed to search a desk for important information finds it contains unlimited junk; a man goes into a shop and eats a goldfish in front of shocked customers; a top record producer hears an astonishing new idea for a concept album - a tribute to the world's greatest jugglers; a woman watching snooker on television is frightened out of her wits when a ball smashes the screen and a player peers out of the set, sheepishly asking for it back; a blind man is used as a car park attendant; a nude woman goes for a secretarial job interview, and, my favourite, a man checking out of a hotel has the catch on his suitcase break, enabling staff to see it is full of stolen towels and cutlery.
'Candid Camera' was made on film, with no studio audience cackling maniacally over the best bits. Dulay made a perfectly relaxed and amiable host. The head pranksters were initially Arthur Atkins and Sheila Burnette. The final season was in 1976, retitled 'Jonathan Routh & Candid Camera' to reflect the fact that its most famous prankster had returned. Routh's marvellously lugubrious face never cracked a smile despite the total absurdities of the situations in which he found himself.
After the series ended, the title 'Candid Camera' was never again used on British television, but 'Game For A Laugh', 'Beadle's About', and 'Trigger-Happy T.V.' all successfully followed its trail. It could be said to be television's first reality show.
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