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Candid Camera’s 50th Anniversary

CBS, THURS., AUG. 29, 8 P.M.

CBS, THURS., AUG. 29, 8 P.M.

A Candid Camera Inc. production, Executive producer, Peter Funt; producer, Philip Gurin; director, Ron de Moraes; editor. Rob Franco; music, Alan Ett Music Group; set, Bruce Ryan; art direction, Domenic Silvestri; lighting, Bob Dickenson. 60 MIN.

Hosts: Peter Funt, Leeza Gibbons.

Allen Funt began catching “people in the act of being themselves” in 1947 with “Candid Microphone,” an Army radio program employing hidden microphones. That still makes it something of a stretch to celebrate the golden anniversary of “Candid Camera,” the popular CBS Sunday night series that originally ran from 1960 to 1967 and which has been seen in several incarnations since. But TV loves any excuse to recycle old material, and if some of the segments seem less benign in 1996 than they did 10 or 20 or 40 years ago, it’s no less pleasant to revisit a program that celebrated relatively innocent, unrehearsed humor.

So here are the floor polishers and file cabinet drawers with minds of their own, the secretary whose “boss” installs a pay phone on her desk, the traffic cop watching in amazement as a trick car splits in half just before running him down. Here, too, are pet shop customers intently watching “invisible fish” (only one sensible customer wonders, “What’s the point of having them?”). Betsy Palmer pretends to be a sadly deficient doctor treating her first unsuspecting, and none-too-exasperated patient, and the bit is just as bilarious when reprised decades later with Victoria Jackson doing the honors.

Other celebrities hit the bull’s-eye, too: Woody Allen dictating a passionate love letter, punctuation and all, to an abashed secretary who seems to take most offense at his misplacement of a question mark; Buster Keaton losing his toupee and glasses to a bowl of soup as fellow diners try — unsuccessfully — to stifle their laughter: Dolly Parton, feigning injury and amnesia as some hapless fellows carry her to the car she can’t quite find.

“When it’s least expected, you’re elected”: People in 1963 couldn’t identify the vice president of the United States. They still couldn’t in 1983 and ’93. Put up a sign instructing people to walk on white tiles only, and it’s amazing the contortions some will put themselves through. Some of these funny videos are just a little bit scary.

Candid Camera's 50th Anniversary

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