As much as I wanted to like this hidden-camera premise — which actually seems to have a more intriguing show locked inside it — it’s difficult to ignore how conspicuously manipulated the action feels. It’s not just that the contestants are actors with minimal credits — duh — but that they’re so obviously actors, which finally undoes a promising concept. Ashton Kutcher has become a prolific reality TV producer, but closely following “Opportunity Knocks” — another slightly tweaked gameshow, that one for ABC — maybe he and his partners should let development plans rattle around in their heads a trifle longer.
Hosted by Joe Rogan (whose stint on “Fear Factor” seems like only yesterday), the “Candid Camera”-like series employs hidden cameras to track a player assigned to conduct various stunts, from asking an unsuspecting family to pose with her to convincing a guy she’s never met to participate in a wedding ceremony. That first salvo, featuring Shalisse Pekarcik, is amusing, if only because it’s relatively fast-paced as a half-hour format and tests how influential a pretty woman can be, even when interacting with complete strangers.
The no-brainer wrinkle — one that would invest the show with unexpected if welcome sociological heft — would be to contrast how well men (or less attractive women) fare by comparison. Instead, the second installment features Craig Scime, who’s even more blatantly doing improv shtick as he tries to coerce strange guys to hang out with him or people on the street to deliver mock testimonials about their own alien abductions.
Everything about the show screams small potatoes — including the $5,000 payday for successfully fulfilling a challenge — which would be fine if the execution didn’t feel so stilted. As is, this lightweight diversion yields a few amusing moments thanks to the assortment of folks the two actors encounter (good to know: Tourists will do just about anything) frequenting well-trafficked locales like Hollywood Boulevard and the Santa Monica pier.
CBS is throwing the program on Saturday night, where it’s unlikely to do serious business but also can’t inflict any damage. The shame is that a more ambitious production might actually have yielded a more viable (or at least less cynical) end product.
At this point nobody really expects reality TV to be totally real (witness all the play-acting that goes into MTV’s “The Hills”), but it should be more authentic than a Groundlings sketch. Given that the idea has merit, it’s a legitimate knock to dismiss “Game Show in My Head” as another missed opportunity.