Prank shows have been popular on television since the beginning of TV broadcasting, with the legendary "Candid Camera" show first airing in 1948 and running through the 1970s. That show has been revived off and on since then, continuing into the present. "Candid Camera" was so hugely popular that it managed to inspire similar shows in other countries, essentially creating a popular format for television. It's clear that many people enjoy watching an effective hidden camera prank carried out on an unsuspecting victim, although far fewer would be amused if they were the ones on the receiving end of the joke.
Like many forms of entertainment, tastes in television shows have become more raw over time, and in the case of hidden camera pranks, the results are sometimes shocking and cruel. Many of the worst examples are culled from sources outside of the U.S.A., because if some of these stunts were inflicted on people in this country, I have a feeling lawsuits would result. While all of them are scary, a few of these shows go to lengths that seem especially cruel, and I doubt they would be able to be produced here. Here are a few recent examples that left me wondering how these shows got away with "pranks" like this and weren't sued into oblivion.
5. Japanese Ghost in The Mirror.
Anyone who has seen ghost movies like "Ringu", or its American remake "The Ring", has been introduced to the super creepy ghosts from modern Japanese horror films. They're not for the faint of heart, as one scared victim of a Japanese television prank show finds out here.
4. Scare Tactics Freaks Out a Guy With a "Rat Monster".
I confess that this prank from "Scare Tactics" elicited a lot of laughter from me when I saw it several years ago. These types of setups are probably no fun at all for the person experiencing them, but don't seem as extremely cruel as others that have been aired recently. At least in the case of supernatural scares and this rat monster, one can take solace in their inherent impossibility.
3. Brazilian Elevator Ghost Child.
This prank from a show in Brazil traps unsuspecting victims on an elevator ride they'll never forget. Brazilian television producers must enjoy pushing the limit, because unless the victims of this prank are in on the "joke", it could've ended very badly. Trapped in a tiny space when the lights go out before flickering back on with an added passenger, could give a person a heart attack, or endanger the child actress playing the ghost. This is scary stuff.
2. A Casket On The Elevator. What Could Go Wrong?
This appears to be from the same Brazilian show responsible for the terrifying ghost on the elevator prank, and judging from the reactions of the people trapped in the elevator with this casket, some of them might need therapy after this ride.
1. Algerian Footballer Is Abducted at Gunpoint. For a Prank Show.
This cheery prank from an Algerian television show named "Camera Cache" really ramps up the awfulness from the previous examples. A professional footballer named Madjid Bougherra is sitting in a cafe when gunmen bust in and abduct him and other bystanders, eventually driving them all to the desert, where it seems like they will be executed. Then of course it's all revealed to be a joke for television! They must really have a different idea of what passes for comedy in Algeria, because the level of cruelty this "prank" harnesses, is difficult to justify.
One thing that is important to remember is that in modern "Reality" television, the truthfulness of what viewers actually see is always in question, and much of what is presented as real is often not. There's a very good change that Madjid Bougherra and the other people who were pranked on these shows were in on the joke the whole time. While it's troubling to think that modern television shows would stoop to the levels of cruelty that some of these pranks seem to indicate, its perhaps worse to consider that audiences think this sort of scary and mean spirited material is entertaining.
Last week, Paris Hilton briefly seemed sympathetic when an Egyptian prank show staged a near plane crash, where it was reported Ms. Hilton thought she was going to die.
The initial news reports indicated that Hilton was emotionally devastated by the experience, and planned to sue the show responsible. Now, it seems we've all been duped again, and she was in on the ruse from the beginning. Very little of what is shown on TV for entertainment purposes should be accepted as the truth, and perhaps it is best to always keep that in mind in an era where shock tactics are often substituted for storytelling or quality content.