A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this prank show gets laughs from putting unsuspecting people in uncomfortable situations. While many of the gags are harmless (a waiter who can't keep his fingers out of people's food, for instance), some are designed to rile their victims, who respond with anger, strong language ("damn" and "hell" are audible, while "f--k" is edited), and obvious discomfort. Dialogue often has sexual undertones -- referencing topics like masturbation and intercourse with a stranger -- and some scenes show couples kissing and fondling. In other words, this isn't a show for young kids or tweens -- but teens might get some laughs (albeit at the participants' expense).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In HOWIE DO IT, Howie Mandel puts his unique spin on the traditional prank show. In each gag, the "marks" (a.k.a. victims) are led to believe that they're being filmed for movie auditions, reality shows, or TV commercials -- what they don't know is that they're actually the brunt of elaborate practical jokes, some of which are designed by the subjects' own family members and friends. Howie himself plays an incognito role in most of the pranks, accompanied by multi-purpose "man on the street" Vic, Howie's son, Alex, and a rotating cast of poker-faced extras.
Is it any good?
Remember the chuckles you got at the expense of the poor souls thrust into the spotlight in the classic TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes? How you laughed at their misfortune with equal parts pity and relief that you weren't the gag's brunt? Add to that feeling the unpredictable factor of Howie Mandel, and you're left with comical reality TV that, by today's standards, actually feels new. (Guess what? There are no eligible bachelors, bickering judges, or larva-eating survivalists anywhere to be found!)
That said, the show's pranks are more involved -- and often more suggestive -- than old standbys like mall shoppers stumped by dual escalators going in identical directions, and the series isn't age-appropriate for kids and young tweens. This is no Punk'd, but many of the gags are designed to cause their subjects real emotional discomfort (forcing a man to watch his girlfriend make out with another guy, or telling a husband that his wife's surgical makeover left her bruised and battered, for instance), and dialogue often has sexual undertones. Most of the marks are good sports when the joke is revealed, but some respond in clear frustration with strong language like "damn," "hell," and bleeped versions of "f--k". So save this one for after your young viewers are in bed -- and even then be sure to remind your teens that any practical joke has the potential to hurt its subject if taken too far.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between jokes and mean-spirited pranks. What are the effects of jokes set up at others' expense?
Have you ever been the victim of a prank? How did it make you feel? Does it change your impression of a joke if the victim isn't a good sport about it? When does teasing cross the line to bullying?
How has the Internet changed the nature of bullying? Do you know anyone who's been cyberbullied? Parents: Talk to your kids about Internet safety and your rules regarding sharing personal information on the Web.
For kids who love reality TV
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.