Written by Joe Kleinsasser Wednesday, 05 September 2007 04:57The first reality-based comedy TV show in history can be traced back to 1948, which I’m happy to say is before my time. In fact, it was a radio program in 1947 before making the transition to television.
The TV show featured unsuspecting people who were placed in confusing, impossible, embarrassing, ridiculous and hilarious positions, while their reactions were recorded on a hidden camera. The now famous, oft-repeated tagline was, “Smile, you’re on ‘Candid Camera.’”
If you watch many sporting events on television, you are well aware of how often the camera is pointing at something or someone other than the athletes playing the game.
In visiting with Greg Matthias, a colleague of mine who does part-time work as a TV cameraman at NCAA Division I and professional sporting events, I learned what I long suspected—there are times when a camera is trained solely on a coach or family member in the crowd.
On one occasion, Matthias was asked to keep his camera focused on Texas Tech basketball coach Bobby Knight in case he had a meltdown during a game against Oklahoma. Of course, as fate would have it, Knight was generally well-behaved during that game.
Earlier this summer, Matthias was shooting a KC Royals and Philadelphia Phillies game. He was instructed to keep his camera aimed in the direction of the brother of Phillies slugger Ryan Howard every time Howard came to the plate, because Howard’s brother and some other family members were attending the game.
The first few times Howard came to bat, he either struck out or grounded out. Finally, late in the game, Howard hit a home run. Matthias had his camera pointed at the section where Howard’s brother and family were supposed to be sitting. But Matthias couldn’t find him, and for a good reason.
It turns out Matthias wasn’t able to capture the reaction of Howard’s brother as Ryan Howard jogged around the bases because the brother had left his seat to take a restroom and/or concession-stand break. As the saying goes, timing is everything.
Matthias also told me that when ESPN or other networks show basketball games from KU’s Allen Field House, the main cameras are shooting the action from behind the team benches. However, there’s always at least one camera on the other side of the floor to capture the reactions of the coaches and players on the bench.
Of course, with multiple TV cameras being used at major sporting events, coaches and players have to know that anything they do will likely be captured on camera. That, in turn, causes one to wonder how many of the reactions we see on TV are spontaneous and how many are orchestrated.
With the advent of low-cost video cameras, all of us have the opportunity to catch candid moments. The trouble is, it’s not always fun or funny to be on the other side of the lens.
And there’s always the danger that someone caught on camera may do something that catches everyone off guard. Such was the case while I was watching a “Monday Night Football” game years ago.
The game had turned into a blowout and many of the Houston Oilers fans had left the Astrodome. The camera zoomed in on a fan slumped over a couple of rows of seats, apparently sound asleep.
As fate would have it, however, the fan looked up, apparently realized he was on camera and proceeded to give an obscene gesture.
The broadcast team, particularly Howard Cosell, was unusually silent. Finally, the oft-witty Don Meredith said, “He’s just trying to say we’re No. 1.”