Candid Gets Cruel on NBC's "Spy TV." 


What I want to see are the outtakes from "Spy TV."

You know, the ones where the guys who've been scammed punch the "SPY TV" scammer in the snout.

Or beat him to a pulp with a minicam.

(Talk about your just deserts.)

There's so very much wrong with "Spy TV" that it's hard to know where to start.

Especially since I was never an Allen Funt fan either.

Funt was the guy who originated the concept that has become today's "Spy TV." "Candid Camera" hit the airwaves in August 1948 with Funt as the host. Since then, it's aired in prime time on each of the Big Three networks, and it's probably still on the air somewhere today.

Funt was a kindly, grandfatherly type. His tricks were benign fun. For instance: A guy in a small car would pull into a gas station and ask the attendant to fill 'er up. Then the audience would watch the attendant's amazement as the tiny car drained his pump dry. (There was a huge concealed tank in the tiny car.)

But today's "Spy TV" is dreadfully different. There's a cruel edge to it. Sort of like deliberately looking for bugs to step on.

You know that Jon deMol, who is also executive producer of "Big Brother," was thinking: I gotta make it edgier.

It's edgy all right.

Too edgy for my taste.

Take the recent "Spy TV" service-station scam. Hidden cameras watched as unsuspecting drivers came in for gas. The attendant (a "Spy TV" operative) raised each hood as though he were checking the oil, then started throwing auto parts from his pockets into a trash barrel. The drivers, who thought that the attendant was throwing away parts of their cars, freaked. One elderly woman seemed near tears. One burly guy was really torqued. I kept waiting for the punch ... but he showed admirable restraint.

In another, a faux mall-security guy hassled shoppers by citing imaginary laws. Seriously. He hassled them. It was supposed to be edgy, but it came off as juvenile and a bit ruthless.

Then there's the host — or "Special Agent," as "Spy TV" calls him: Michael Ian Black, who also plays Phil Stubbs on "Ed." In fact, he's one of the reasons I stopped watching "Ed."

His deadpan delivery of the silliest lines falls as flat as a Nebraska farm. You can see what he's trying — and failing — to do. He's trying to do a parody of cool that's supposed to be way cool but is really so uncool that it's embarrassing.

There's precious little — in fact, nothing — of redeeming value to "Spy TV." So you can safely skip this one.

Unless, that is, you're the type who likes to look for bugs to squash.


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