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Smile! <I>Candid Camera</I> Coming to DVD

29 Mar, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold

At least two generations of Americans have grown up with “Candid Camera,” the granddaddy of all reality television that Rhino Home Video is bringing to DVD this year.

Peter Funt grew up with “Candid Camera” in a literal sense: His dad, the late Allen Funt, created the show in 1948 as an outgrowth of his “Candid Microphone” radio show and continued to serve as the show's host through its glory years on CBS in the 1960s.

“My first experience with the show was when I was 3, and my dad put me out on the street in New York City with a shoeshine box and the idea was that I would try to charge $10 per shoe, which in today's money would be about $150,” Funt said.

Sadly, that sequence -- and many other sequences and episodes that ran on TV between 1948 and 1959, when the show was picked up by CBS -- are lost.

“It's always been my frustration that they never saved a lot of that footage,” Funt said. “I don't think that anyone dreamed, back in the 1940s and early 1950s, that we would be sitting around here in 2004 talking about it, let alone wanting to look at it again.”

But that's precisely what the folks at Rhino Home Video are doing. They've culled the cream of the “Candid Camera” sequences and episodes that were saved -- mostly post-1960, but as much of the early stuff as they could find -- and are planning a major DVD release initiative.

A $15 “best of” DVD will be sold this summer through direct response. Later in the year, “Candid Camera” will arrive in stores via a $20 single DVD and a $50 three-disc boxed set.

“We have in excess of 500 complete shows that my dad did and another 150 complete shows that I have done since,” said Funt, who joined his dad as co-host in 1987 and continued in the lead role after Funt Sr. retired in 1993 (he died in 1999).

Funt expects viewers will find most interesting the changes the show, and society, went through over the past 56 years.

“It's not just the hairstyles and clothing, but also how people handle socially challenging situations,” he said. “In some areas, human nature hasn't changed much, but in other cases it has changed quite profoundly.

“One quick example: Much of what we do on ‘Candid Camera' involves just stopping passersby on the street and talking to them. If you look at footage over 56 years, the most significant change is that private space has gotten larger and larger over the years.

“In the 1950s and '60s, if you stopped someone and asked directions, he'd be leaning right over your shoulders. But now when you stop someone, they'll talk to you and that space will be three or four feet.”

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