Shout! Factory Plans Digital Release Of Allen Funt Documentary ‘Mister Candid Camera,’ Story Of Hidden Camera Prankster Who Created A TV Genre

EXCLUSIVE: MTV’s The Real World is often credited with pioneering reality TV in America, but credit more properly goes to a much earlier television series: Candid Camera.

The hidden camera show created by Allen Funt premiered on TV in 1948, with various iterations broadcast until 2014. The story of how Funt created one of entertainment’s most enduring hits, and essentially invented a television genre, is told in the documentary Mister Candid Camera, written and directed by Funt’s son, Peter Funt. Shout! Factory, in collaboration with Candid Camera Inc., will premiere the film August 2 on major digital platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon, GooglePlay and YouTube.

Funt’s concept was to secretly film unsuspecting people on the street or other settings reacting to strange circumstances—like boarding an elevator that moved sideways instead of up and down, or witnessing a car spontaneously split in half. Funt caught priceless reactions, from terror and surprise to comic befuddlement, before emerging from behind the scenes to expose the hoax and tell his subjects, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”

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Carol Burnett, Howie Mandel, and Fannie Flagg are among the stars who testify to the genius of Funt’s creation, offering “insight into the methods and machinations of the legendary television pioneer.”

Candid Camera not only provided sheer entertainment, but constituted a fascinating sociological exercise. It revealed something telling about Americans, particularly at a time long before smart phone cameras were ubiquitous and people became inured to being observed and surveilled.

“That’s real,” Burnett says of the show. “That is true reality television, and I think that’s [Funt’s] legacy.”

Peter Funt began co-hosting episodes of the show with his father in 1987 and eventually became host and producer after Allen Funt’s retirement in 1993.

“Our film has been well received in recent months by festival audiences,” Peter Funt noted in a statement. “We tried to paint an honest picture of my dad, who was at times hard to work with but probably doesn’t get enough credit for his profound influence on nonfiction TV.”

Shout! Factory not only obtained distribution rights to the documentary, but also exclusive digital and broadcast rights in the U.S. and Canada to the Candid Camera episodic library.

“We’re excited to bring the package to new and older generations of fans,” said Shout’s Jordan Fields. “Peter’s documentary is a loving and entertaining tribute to his father and the show that immortalized him.”

In addition to his television work, Peter Funt is a journalist, columnist and author; his most recent book, Self-Amused: A Tell-Something Memoir, was published last year. Candid Camera Inc., along with its archive of episodes spanning decades, from the days of black-and-white TV to color, is “developing new hidden-camera series as well as fact-based documentary projects.”

TruTV’s Impractical Jokers and The Carbonaro Effect, as well as MTV’s Punk’d and even ABC’s What Would You Do? are just a few of the more recent reality TV series that owe everything to Candid Camera.

Mister Candid Camera was produced by Brian Courrejou and edited by Bob Franco.

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