5 Pranks on Prank Shows That Went Seriously Wrong
TV was barely even a thing before people realized that the medium could be used to trick people into looking like total buffoons. Yes, the hidden camera prank show has a long and storied history, ranging from the early days of Candid Camera to the modern era in which the kid from Stranger Things tortures the unemployed.
But even the best-planned pranks aren’t 100 percent foolproof. Sometimes, these acts of televised mischief go completely off the rails, such as how…
‘Scare Tactics’ Sent a Woman to the Hospital
In some ways, Scare Tactics was a very traditional hidden camera prank show in the vein of Candid Camera. It’s just that instead of, say, making someone think they got a parking ticket, the show’s targets were dragged into unspeakable nightmare scenarios involving fake machete-wielding killers and escaped mutant rat-men.
One prank, conducted during the production of Scare Tactics’ first season, involved making an unwitting grade school teacher think she was being chased by a murderous alien creature after being driven into the middle of the desert. Unfortunately for producers, the mark didn’t laugh off the incident once she found out that the “alien” in question was just a theater school graduate working for Shannen Doherty.
The would-be alien victim, Kara Blanc, sued the show, claiming that she had to be hospitalized for “physical injuries” as well as “severe emotional distress,” and she prevented the segment from ever airing. The producers reportedly “settled for a low seven-figure sum.”
Kristen Wiig Suffered a Head Injury During ‘The Joe Schmo Show’
A less heartwarming proto-Jury Duty, Spike TV’s The Joe Schmo Show was a fake reality show — well, faker reality show — in which only one or two people were genuine contestants, not paid actors. While much of the series wasn’t hugely memorable, the cast of the first season featured future comedy powerhouse Kristen Wiig as “Dr. Pat.”
Unfortunately, an early wrestling competition segment proved regrettable (for reasons other than the problematic inflatable sumo costumes). The titular schmo, Matt Kennedy Gould, slammed Wiig/Dr. Pat to the ground, inadvertently injuring her head.
Amazingly, Wiig somehow stayed in character (exclaiming “Oh my stars”) but was rushed to the hospital. She returned to the show the next day, where a guilt-ridden (and still clueless) Gould gave her a spa vacation that he’d won earlier.
O.J. Simpson’s ‘Juiced’ Sidekick Was Nearly Assaulted by an Angry Golfer
While “hidden camera shows” and “accused murderers” very rarely intersect, for some bizarre reason, in 2006, the Mad Libs-playing Gods in charge of our reality gave us Juiced, a straight-to-DVD prank show in which innocent people were duped by O.J. Simpson. The former football star sometimes showed up wearing grotesque disguises or, even more terrifyingly, was just himself.
Simpson’s comedic collaborator, a guy named Harmon Leon, later penned a lengthy account of his time making Juiced for VICE. Shockingly, it turns out it wasn’t a super-positive experience. One prank involved Leon stealing one of O.J.’s golfing buddy’s balls and asking O.J. to sign it. This didn’t go over well. The golfer allegedly grabbed one of his irons and attempted to go full Casey Jones on the poor actor.
When O.J. belatedly informed the “large angry man” that he’d been “Juiced,” the reveal did nothing because A) the show didn’t exist yet, and nobody knew what that meant; and B) the guy “didn’t give a shit,” and continued screaming: “I DON’T CARE WHAT IT IS. YOU DON’T TOUCH PEOPLE’S BALLS!”
In the end, there was no actual violence, and presumably only careers were hurt.
‘Candid Camera’ Failed to Get Mr. Rogers to be Anything But Lovely
A 1998 episode of the rebooted Candid Camera set up the beloved Fred Rogers. Instead of simply kidnapping Daniel Tiger, host Peter Funt posed as a hotel bellboy, showing Mr. Rogers up to his room. The catch? The room had no TV because the doltish employee took it to another room.
While Alan Funt and company were hoping that Rogers would get at least a little uncharacteristically “upset,” instead, he just laughed and insisted that he didn’t need a TV anyway. What a guy.
Perhaps this is the only instance in which a prank went wrong because the target was way too kind and chill.
Zach Braff Beat Up a Child on ‘Punk’d’
MTV’s Punk’d found That ’70s Show/racist potato chip commercial star Ashton Kutcher bravely pranking celebrities from the comfort of a nearby control room. In one notorious 2005 episode, Donald Faison tapped Kutcher to trick his buddy Zach Braff, making the Scrubs star believe that his beloved Porsche had been spray-painted by an angry preteen (whom Braff had refused to buy beer for). When the vandal escaped on foot, Braff and a security guard (who, like the kid, was another actor) chased the perp down. At which point, there is a conspicuous jump cut in the episode.
Yeah, apparently, Braff beat the crap out of this kid. As Braff later admitted: “I wasn’t supposed to catch the kid, but I caught him, and I’m not a big fighter or anything, but with the adrenaline and everything, I just started pummeling him,” also adding that they edited the assault out of the broadcast “because apparently you’re not supposed to punch people on Punk’d” — although, it could be argued that you’re not supposed to punch children anywhere, Zach.
Weirdly, despite the literal assault that had transpired, everybody just kept going. Impressively, the child actor stayed in character, presumably while silently regretting his decision not to take that TGI Friday’s commercial instead. And since he was reportedly only 12, this budding thespian’s parents were very likely present on set and forced to helplessly watch as the monster who subjected America to Garden State wailed on their son.
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