A sort of hybrid between “Candid Camera” and “Punk’d,” TBS’ “Deal with It” hopes to reinvigorate the hidden camera prank show genre. Produced by Howie Mandel and hosted by comedian Theo Von, the series, which returns March 19, features celebrity guests who dare contestants to pull ridiculous stunts in public in order to win cash prizes.
During a recent phone interview, Mandel and Von spoke with Boston.com about the show’s upcoming second season, the legacy of the hidden camera TV show genre, and more.
Boston.com: From Heidi Klum to Nick Cannon, you guys have a pretty stacked line up of celebrity guests for season two. In your opinion, who was the most fun to work with?
Howie Mandel: This is going to sound political, but the most fun to work with are the contestants. The celebrities, everybody brings their own flavor and does whatever they want and becomes a puppet master. Everybody from the Jenner girls [Kylie and Kendall Jenner] – who were incredibly, surprisingly funny and just wanted to play along – to Heidi Klum, who was in a piece that includes full frontal nudity, the word “surprise” is what’s inherent in every one of these episodes with every celebrity. We don’t know what’s going to happen, they don’t know what’s going to happen, and I have no idea how they’re going to react to what’s happening. Or, they have no idea what it is they are going to do, what they’re going to say, what they’re going to make somebody do. So, if there was another way to rename the show, it would just be “Surprise.”
Boston.com: From actors to comedians, you feature a lot of different type of celebrities on the show. Did any of the stars who didn’t have a background in comedy surprising you with their comedic chops?
Mandel: We have actors, comedians. We have Youtube stars. We have Roman Atwood, who’s the number one prankster on Youtube, to Orlando Jones, who has a hit series on the CW, to Arsenio Hall.
Theo Von: I think everybody has a sense of humor. I mean, I think it’s a lot of opportunities for these celebrities who are in certain environments who don’t get to show that sense of humor, this gives them the chance to really do that.
Boston.com: Between seasons one and two, were there any pranks that you guys were amazed you were able to pull off?
Mandel: Each and every day is something that amazes me because I love hidden camera and I love pranking, but this plays on a level that no other show does. What people love about pranks and what people love about hidden camera is to see how people will react to the pranks. Well, we do that and we see that, and stuff’s surprising and always funny. But we add the element into, off the cuff, creatively, come up with something, and to give the idea to somebody that is related in some way because, that’s the show. They’re sitting in a restaurant or some place with their wife, or home, work, or whatever, and we’ll say, “Tell your daughter you’re leaving her mother for another man.” Now, number one, if the guy does this, he’s going to go, “Oh my God, how is she going to react? This is a public place. What is she going to do?” But, number two, which doesn’t really exist in any other show: Is he going to do it? How does the person that we’re giving the command to going to react? Are they going to deal with it? Are they going to be able to do it? How are they going to deliver it? And that’s what doesn’t exist in any other prank, hidden camera show.
Boston.com: Have there been any difficulties behind the scenes trying to convince some of the contestants to play along?
Mandel: Well, the truth is, most people did play along, but resistance is good. That’s for our show, you know? If somebody doesn’t want to go any further and says, “I can’t deal with it,” yeah, there have been people who can’t deal with it and those are great moments. Whether I go for the money or can I do this to my soul mate or can I do this to my boss? And you watch that quandary in their face, watch the angst on everybody else’s in the restaurant, and then to decide to not go forward is also a very entertaining moment.
Von: Sometimes we’ll have, you’ll see the toughest guy. A guy who, in the gym, would be able to take on anything he wanted to physically. But then we put him in a situation where, you know, mentally or emotionally, he just doesn’t want to do that to his friend. And for him to say, “I can’t deal with it,” is pretty cool to watch sometimes.
Boston.com: Have classic shows like “Candid Camera” influenced the style of “Deal with It?”
Mandel: Allen Funt is the reason why I’m in show business. It’s the first time I recognized comedy, “Candid Camera” was the first show. My parents used to buy comedy albums and watch TV. I was a toddler and I’d hear them laugh and I didn’t really get the jokes or understand what was going on. But the first time I understood, I remember distinctively sitting in the living room and watching Allen Funt, who was the host of “Candid Camera,” explain what the joke was going to be and how he was going to pull it off. We were all in on the joke. It brings the audience in on the joke and it’s the most relatable kind of comedy because we can all just sit there. It’s visceral television. Would I do that to my daughter? And if that was done to me, would I react badly? Would I get mad? Would I get embarrassed? Would I go along with it? It’s pretty visceral, interactive television where you’re sitting there on the couch watching and it kind of opens up a discussion.
Von: It’s great to see like the dad be able to get back at his daughter, who just sits on the phone at the table the whole time. Or to see like the shy friend finally get to put one over on the loud friend. Moments like that are really special to watch as well.
Boston.com: Should you guys come back for a third season, which celebrity guests would you want on the show?
Von: Liam Neeson, first of all. We’re trying to get Liam Neeson, I know that. And, I wouldn’t mind Blue Man Group, but our set is kind of small.
Boston.com: What should fans be most excited about for season two?
Mandel: I think it’s unpredictable television. Unpredictable, unscripted, pure raw, real, television.Matt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter@MattchidaMMA.