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This is Howie Change the Channel March 1, 2009

Posted by Ted in : Candid Camera, Reality TV, Reviews , 2comments

  I’ve been wondering how many words to devote to the new show Howie Do It, which is similar to hidden camera shows of the past such Candid Camera and Punk’d (with the enigmatic apostrophe). Given its sinking ratings, I guess I should go ahead and get my review done before the show is cancelled. Some of the zany pranks featured on this program have included: Howie in a wig posing as a waiter who sticks his fingers into people’s food and drinks, getting a man to pick his nose, bumping a microphone repeatedly into someone’s face while conducting an interview, and the old standby, farting.

One segment involved recruiting participants for a fake reality show called “Break-In Makeover,” who were told to break into a house and smash the owner’s computers and televisions, which they were told would be replaced by new equipment. Then Howie pulled up in a strangely fake looking police car and disrupted their activities with a bullhorn. In one especially annoying prank a member of Howie’s crew attempted to seduce a man’s wife while the man watched on the set of a fake TV commercial. After each segment, Mandel cues a large studio audience by saying “This is…,” to which they respond zombie-like, “Howie do it!”

I think this show fails for at least two reasons:

  1. It insults the intelligence of the audience with the same old sophomoric garbage they’ve seen a thousand times before. Why do television producers constantly treat their viewers like a bunch of drooling chimpanzees?
  2. The few pranks on the show that could actually be funny are rendered humorless by Howie’s clumsy comic sensibilities. It all seems very forced and unnatural. Mandel treats his victims as disposable props to be used and throw away, herding them through the stunts like cattle.

The quality gap between Howie Do It and the classic Candid Camera show couldn’t be wider. Allen Funt had a light touch and, unlike Mandel, seemed to have sympathy for his subjects. He made it a point not to offend or degrade the people on his show. It played like a sociology experiment, helping us to gain insight into human nature. Mandel has dispensed with all the class and intelligence that characterized Candid Camera, opting for the cheapest laughs possible. The result is a sad, unwatchable mess. No deal!

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