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 hidden-camera show is all about deception. Producers set up elaborate scenarios involving monsters, psychic powers, mysterious experimental drugs, and other quasi-supernatural themes -- all in the name of tricking and terrifying an unsuspecting victim. The situations are often quite clever and are carried off quite well, so it's not surprising that the victims are usually completely fooled. As a result, the big "payoff" is watching someone who's scared out of their wits. Their reactions are genuinely fearful, which can be unpleasant to watch. Bottom line? At its core, the show is mean-spirited.
What's the story?
In the spirit of Punk'd comes SCARE TACTICS, a reality show that goes to great lengths to scare the bejeebers out of unsuspecting victims. (Think Candid Camera with aliens.) Each episode features several unrelated scenarios that usually rely on elaborate sets and many accomplices to fool someone into believing they're in danger -- be it from a strange monster, a mentally unstable teen with dangerous psychic powers, a mysterious alien beast, or some other improbable but terrifying creature.
Is it any good?
The producers do a commendable job of setting the scene and selling it to the victims. Despite the fact that these monsters-in-the-dark seem straight out of the late-late-show's central casting department, the people are usually completely fooled. They tremble, their voices crack, and they're visibly relieved when someone finally tells them they're actually part of a TV show.
But is that good television? Comedian Tracy Morgan, who hosts the show, seems to take great delight in fooling people, as do the victim's friends, who are in on the act. But the people being deceived certainly aren't having fun -- not when they honestly believe they're in danger. And it's hard to say whether it's that much more enjoyable for them after the big reveal. Like many reality shows, Scare Tactics tries to transform pain and discomfort into entertainment for viewers; whether you find it entertaining or not, chances are you'll be glad you aren't on the show yourself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about if and when practical jokes go too far. Nobody gets injured in this show, but they're often clearly terrified. Is that OK? Does watching someone endure emotional distress make good television? Would you do this to one of your friends? Have you ever played a practical joke on someone? What are your own limits?