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 though the show plays its stunts for laughs -- and for the most part it's funny -- the basic premise centers on the fact that someone is being put in an extremely uncomfortable or scary position. There's no running away from its mean-spiritedness, especially since viewers don't get to see the "victims" find out the truth and, perhaps, join in the fun by laughing at the situation themselves. Because the set-ups are meant to be realistic, there's plenty of gore, which could prove too scary for the young viewers who may be attracted to the show.
What's the story?
Actor Ashton Kutcher goosed the basic Candid Camera premise -- play a practical joke and film it -- and came up with Punk'd. Now he's done it again by adding a little horror into the formula with ROOM 401. In this MTV series hosted by actor Jared Padalecki (CW's Supernatural), unsuspecting victims are punked by Kutcher and his creative partner, Jason Geldberg, into believing they've stepped into their worst nightmare. Afterward, those snookered surely must laugh out of sheer relief.
Is it any good?
Just how gory are these gags? Two friends eating at a sushi restaurant watch as a nearby diner claws at his chest, which appears to break open, allowing crabs -- he'd been chowing down on soft-shell varieties -- to escape. In another scene, a man whose job is to clean up after crime scenes is led to believe he's seen the soul of a corpse the cops are about to haul away rise up from his body. At a meat grinder's, a worker thinks his co-worker has severed an entire arm right before his eyes.
The set-ups can be pretty realistic, thanks to Hollywood special effects, so kids -- even tweens -- may find it too gory or scary. (Grown-ups used to more sophisticated horror fare won't be swayed, though.) And there's something uncomfortable, not to mention cruel, about laughing at someone else's expense. Seeing that guy think he's literally seen a ghost, you feel sorry for him. And sorry you're watching the entire time and chuckling all the while, too.