Just when you thought you were safe from hidden cameras and that you could walk into a public place without worrying about being duped by some hotshot comedian, The WB brings all those fears back to life with “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment.” Jamie Kennedy stars in this updated version of the classic show “Candid Camera.” Kennedy will try to attract a slightly older audience than the WB usually draws with his hidden comedy. The situations are more early-adult orientated, such as job interviews and the awkward first meeting of your significant other”s parents.
The show consists of sketches put together by Kennedy to freak out, scare and embarrass unsuspecting victims. Kennedy does not talk to a separate audience about the skits, so his impressions are non-existent. There are also no voiceovers that narrate the action. The lack of narration helps to focus on the action of Kennedy and the other participants. Without comments from Kennedy or others, he lets the sketches stand-alone. This is a bold move for any show, especially a mid-season premiere. Basing it solely on his talent and the outrageous actions of his marks, Kennedy is putting himself on the line.
He dresses in full costume and make-up to authenticate his characters. For the most part he appears convincing enough for his target to believe him, but some of his antics are too extreme to be funny. In “The Death of a Salesman” skit, Kennedy becomes an infomercial inventor selling his product. While filming, an accident occurs that appears to injure a volunteer from the audience. The other audience members refuse to participate in testimonials about the product until Kennedy offers other incentives to endorse the product. Although how he entices the audience members to say they love his product is funny, the injury and consequences involved almost make the experiment a complete failure before the skit begins.
Johnny Knoxville”s short-running MTV show, “Jackass,” featured regular people and their stunts. As a successor to shows like “Jackass” and NBC”s “Fear Factor,” it is Kennedy”s turn to do the action and stunts. The show takes practical jokes to a new level that exposes people in their moments of weakness. Kennedy pushes people to their limit and shows how far someone would go in a situation. But unlike “Fear Factor,” the stunts are not gross and Kennedy does most of the work. The others are just along for the ride. “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment” also takes some of its ideas from the Australian game show “Who Dares Wins.” Even though the participants do not have a choice as in these game shows, the mental control required is the same for all. With a Kennedy character in the targets” faces, how they react will not only show their true personality, but give the rest of us a chance to laugh at their silliness.
Kennedy attempts to be funny throughout the show, but he tries too hard throughout most of the first episode. When he lets himself go in the last sketch, he demonstrates his potential for comedy and the show. Jamie Kennedy can be funny when he stops thinking and just plays off the other actors and his unknowing prey. Even though he does not have any reoccurring cast members-other than himself, Kennedy uses his supporting cast well. “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment” has some laughs but lacks the knockout punch needed to make the show a complete success at the moment.