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Catching up with "Candid Camera."

What will people do when they think no one is watching? The scene: an ordinary doctor's office. Enter a male temporary secretary who is coming to see the doctor about a job opening. At the main desk is a voluptuous nurse, dressed (or downdressed) to accentuate her ample assets. Into this cozy reception room walks a young mother and her 10-year-old son. After registering with the nurse, mother and son sit down on a couch very near to the male applicant in the waiting area. The youngster fidgets with an unusual-looking pair of sunglasses, taking them on and off. Soon he turns to his mother and says, "Mom, I can see right through that nurse's clothes! Wanna see?"

Mom feigns impatience and says, "How many times have I told you not to mess with Daddy's inventions? Those are his x-ray glasses."

At this point, the nurse returns and calls the mother and son into the adjoining office. Minus one little thing. Yep--the glasses. Will the male applicant, now alone in the room, try them on or won't he? That's the question.

After the nurse exits the room, he slyly looks around to make sure no one's looking, then quickly puts the glasses on. Unbeknownst to him, a double for the curvy nurse re-enters the waiting room in little more than a sexy slip. Just as he thinks "Hey, whaddaya know, they work!" he hears a familiar refrain: "Smile! You're on 'Candid Camera'!"

No one can predict exactly what will happen when "Candid Camera" is in action--and back in action it is, stalking the unsuspecting in doctors' offices, malls, even mailboxes and telephone booths. As the saying goes, the crew's camera is waiting wherever you "might least expect it."

The stunts are always hilarious. Like the one that has an unsuspecting cab driver arriving to pick up his passenger, only to find the man is in a full body cast. Or the plight of a hungry truck driver, who orders a 14-ounce steak at a cafe but is brought a nouvelle cuisine portion the size of a silver dollar, topped with a fancy sauce and decorated with a fresh flower--not exactly what the man ordered. For some reason, we love to witness each other being caught offguard. As one writer put it, TV viewers feel they are peering through key-holes at human nature with its shirttails flapping.

Veteran comedian Dom DeLuise is the new host of "Candid Camera." When the call to do the show came, DeLuise was in his lawyer's office. He searched around for hidden cameras, waiting for that famous line to be spoken at any moment: "I looked around but the camera wasn't there!"

DeLuise had always been a fan of the original program. "I watched it constantly, and I loved the repeats," he says. "When I was sick I would get better just watching 'Candid Camera'."

DeLuise has more acting credits than Joan Rivers has one-liners, but one of his greatest achievements of late has been regaining his health. With 95 pounds lost and still counting, DeLuise thanks great nutrition and a 12-step program for his success, and now looks forward to hosting one of television's all-time favorites.

Many of the new shows, which will air Monday through Friday in syndication across the country, will feature classic scenes from the original "Candid Camera" created by the legendary Allen Funt and company. Funt is serving as creative consultant to the series, and vows it will have the same integrity as the original. His son Bill and daughter Juliet have also been part of the new program.

Although the "Candid Camera" classics--the talking mailbox; "driving" a car with no engine in it into a filling station; the guard posted at the Pennsylvania-Delaware border informing motorists that Delaware was closed for the day--still make us roll, neo-classics are in the making. Many viewers no doubt will remember the recent CC skit featuring the testing of a product that when applied to the lips acts as a glue--"lipstick" took on a whole new meaning.

To create such memorable skits, ten teams travel around the country in search of the unsuspecting. "I'm sure we'll hit every big metropolitan city in the United States," Andrea Matske, assistant producer of the new "Candid Camera," says. "We have one team based out of New York, but the other nine go three weeks at a time, pick up, and go into a city for three weeks and do 12 segments."

Some of those "caught" by the camera crews don't have the ability to laugh at themselves--in fact, tempers can flare. But the crews have learned the target groups. "Kids are the funniest," says Matzke. "They are so funny because, you know, when you're a kid, almost anything is possible still. They are so much more free with their emotions."

White-collar professionals are often too hurried during the day to stop and appreciate a stunt. Women, the crew has found, appear to be more suspicious and ask more questions. Temporary office workers, however, are perfect foils or "marks" for "Candid Camera" scenarios and are used often, as are pizza-delivery and pick-up services. Casual shoppers in malls and visitors to local parks are also sitting ducks for the hidden CC eye.

Since it debuted over four decades ago, "Candid Camera" has been a part of three feature films, 40 short movies, nine home video cassettes, eight record albums, and three books. Ironically, the show is also used as part of the psychology curriculum in more than 60 colleges and universities around the world.

Who dreams up these crazy skits? A lot are remakes of favorite stunts. "We take the old 'Candid Camera' and go through the tapes and we try to update them," Matzke explains. "We have a staff of writers, and the writers will come up with a general concept, but every director, every team is different. Sometimes if it [the stunt] is not working, we just take an offshoot of what they're doing and run with it."

Some gags don't work.

"Although it wasn't a total bomb, it was a great psychology lesson," Matzke says, recalling a failed stunt. "We did one at a restaurant. The customers would come in and tell their name to the maitre d' and the maitre d' would keep mispronouncing it. The pronunciation was so far off that someone else, one of the actors, would stand up and say, 'That's my name' and the wrong couple would be seated."

Sounds funny enough, right?

"It does sound funny, but in practice we realized that people are proud of their own name and do not want people mispronouncing it," Matzke relates. "They found it rather insulting."

More often than not, the gags work. Take, for example, the classic remake of the skit known as Bird On The Roof. "We had this really nice chicken suit with real feathers. We put the actor dressed up in this suit on top of a building right downtown," Matzke remembers. "Across the street one block down, we have a bird watcher with a video camera--another actor--who pretends that he was desperately trying to get his camera to work and he just stops passersby by saying, 'Oh, my gosh! Can you believe what's going on?' pointing to the giant chicken on top of the building downtown.

"Some people would say, 'Right. What, "Candid Camera"?' and others would fall for it and say, 'It's the biggest bird I've ever seen. He's going to be taking off.' And they would give a play-by-play account of the bird's activities while the bird watcher tried desperately to get his video camera to work. It was visually hysterical."

Setting up a "Candid Camera" stunt takes hours of planning and execution; cameras and microphones must be camouflaged. In one skit, a camera was rigged inside a lunchbox; a model-airplane remote control was used to control the camera's eye. Microphones are taped to floors, chairs, mirrors, or wherever it's necessary--and everything must be placed with painstaking care, because the slightest mistake can often signal the victim of the stunt. A standard day for the crew usually runs 12 to 14 hours, just to capture one or two three-minute segments for the series. Although the finished product appears effortless, a lot of work has preceded it. The new show will feature six or seven different pieces, most of them about two to three minutes long, amounting to twice the number of segments shown on the original shows.

With ten crews scanning the United States just waiting to catch people in the act of being themselves, don't be surprised if someday, somewhere, someone comes up to you and says, "Smile! You're on 'Candid Camera'!"
COPYRIGHT 1992 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Perry, Patrick
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1992
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