Egypt's Candid Camera
By Micah Halpern
Wednesday August 15, 2012
I never watched Candid Camera when I was a kid. We only watched The Wonderful World of Disney and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. My parents enforced strict TV rules. But as an adult, when I can watch whatever I please, I really enjoy those old shows and have made up for lost times when it comes to shows like Candid Camera. Watching the episodes years and years after they were first shown, I still get a kick out of the antics of the producers and the actions of the unsuspecting guests. Candid Camera took normal situations, twisted them and made them funny. The camera caught real, unrehearsed, responses to the most mundane situations.
It all began in 1948 when Candid Camera was a radio show starring Allen Funt and called the Candid Microphone. Eventually the program made its way from ABC to NBC to CBS. In 1949, now on television, the name of the show became Candid Camera. It was the precursor for many of today's popular reality shows. And like reality of TV of today, it was very popular and consistently top rated.
Candid Camera of yore was wholesome, honest, fun. It was laugh-out-loud amusing to see real reactions to strange and funny situations. It was funny to see someone's reaction after a mailbox talked to them. It would have been funny to see a person walk into closet thinking that it was a bathroom, but that episode was nixed because, in those days, the episode was considered too dicey.
Times have certainly changed.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. But in the case of a newly reborn version of Candid Camera now airing on Egyptian TV, I am not so sure the adage proves true.
In the Egyptian version of Candid Camera the surprise almost always follows the same script. The set up is always the same. The sketch repeats itself. The only different variable is the personality upon whom the prank is played. Several episodes, aired in Egypt from July 20 through July 22, 2012 can now be viewed at: www.memritv.org/clip/en/3504.htm
Viewer be warned: these episodes are truly shocking and extremely candid.
In each episode a famous personality is invited to a cable network for an interview. The guest is made to think that the program airs on a German TV network. While on air a caller calls outraged that this person is actually appearing on Israeli TV. The caller is cut off. he guest puts the pieces together thinking that he or she is now on Israeli TV. Tensions rise. Often, so do fists. The guests shout ugly, horrendous, curses against Israel and about Jews. They beat and punch and pull hair and kick the production staff even the female host thinking that they have been tricked into appearing on Israeli TV.
One guest, still thinking that she was on German TV, said that Jews are all liars and that there was no Holocaust. When asked if that was not an exaggeration she said of course not.
As a famous Egyptian entertainer was being led into the trap he said that peace was between governments and not between peoples. He said there will never be peace between peoples. After the traps have been sprung and the anger erupts, the production staff steps in to save their on-air people from the anger of the guests.
Without exception, at the end each and every episode concludes with clapping and shouting that everyone is an Egyptian patriot, that it was just a gag, a joke, Candid Camera.
It was a joke and it was a gag - both in poor taste and certainly, it was candid. After viewing these clips over and over I came to the conclusion that the material was, by its very nature, much more honest and candid than I could have ever imagined. No dialogue with an Egyptian would have elicited as much raw anger and unadulterated hatred toward Israel and Jews as this faux Candid Camera. The guests, all of them, interchanged the words Jews and Israelis which is very important to note. And they did not use the word Zionist which is what the Iranians use. While it is commonplace for Westerners to assume that the anger and hatred is reserved for Israel and Israelis, not against Jews, that is totally untrue as these scenes reveal. This is what they call entertainment in Egypt. This is considered funny and mainstream.
Western thinkers and analysts speak about the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nouri party as representing extremist idea and attitudes these are real uncensored people voicing those same ideas and exhibiting those same attitudes. It is wrong to think that the Egyptian masses do not hold these attitudes toward Israel and the Jews and the West.The Candid Camera I love to watch concludes with the phrase: Smile, you're on Candid Camera. There was nothing in this version to make me smile. They made me cringe.
Again, the website to watch is: www.memritv.org/clip/en/3504.htm
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