The Jamie Kennedy Experiment: The Complete First Season review by Mike Long

People inherently love practical jokes. I based this statement on the fact that it wasn't very long after the advent of television that the first "reality show" appeared in the form of Allen Funt's Candid Camera. This hidden-camera comedy show not only demonstrated TV's potential, but it set the standard for many shows to follow. While hidden-camera shows have come and gone over the years, there has been a recent resurgence in their popularity, as evidenced by Punk'd and The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, which has just received its first DVD release.

As far as hidden-camera shows go, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment is a fairly elaborate and creative endeavor. Jamie Kennedy, known from films such as Scream and Three Kings, stars on the program, and uses his ability to play many different kinds of characters to elevate the show. Each episode consists of three sketches. In each sketch, a one or more "marks" is chosen to be "X'd", or tricked by Kennedy and his crew. The pivotal point in the show is that Kennedy appears in each sketch playing a character, and is generally adorned in a costume, disguise, or even special-effects makeup which conceal his identity.

The pranks themselves range from very basic to incredibly elaborate, and many have spawned characters who have been seen on the show multiple times. Some of the simplest sketches involve characters such as white-boy rapper B-Rad Gluckman, who became the basis for Kennedy's under-rated film Malibu's Most Wanted. In these scenes, B-Rad, who is convinced that he is going to be a huge star with his CD "Mali-Booty", invades a normally serene environment and creates havoc. But, it's the more elaborate sketches which really make The Jamie Kennedy Experiment stand out. Instead of tricking one or two people, Kennedy and his writers will often fool entire crowds by doing things such as staging fake infomercials ("The Insta-Cooker"), fake talk shows ("The Virginia Hamm Show"), or fake dating shows ("Hit it or Quit it"). With these segments, it is both the participants and the studio audience who are being duped. For his biggest goof, Kennedy proposed to a girl and was rejected in front of a crowd at an UNLV basketball game. These high-stakes jokes make The Jamie Kennedy Experiment more than just some guy with a camera.

There's no doubt, there is some funny material to be had on the The Jamie Kennedy Experiment: The Complete First Season DVD set. Many of the sketches are laugh out loud funny, especially "The Virginia Hamm Show" and the sketch were Kennedy, disguised as a Hollywood tour guide, actually takes a group into the home of a (sorta) celebrity. Of course the show is daring, but it's also quite imaginative. Along with the laughs, it's fun, and often amazing, to watch the reaction of the marks. The best is a casting call for a fake reality show called "Child Island", in which children will be placed in a dangerous Survivor-like environment. Let me just say that some of the parents are more than willing to risk the lives of their child simply to get the kid on TV. The awkward part of the show comes when the prank is revealed. Kennedy gleefully says, "You've been X'd" and no one ever knows what that means. Of course, many of the segments were shot before the show ever aired, but it's still uncomfortable. Also, there are times when Kennedy is barely disguised and he isn't recognized. That's cold. (In all fairness, one of the special features implies that there are scrapped episodes in which Kennedy was recognized.) This DVD set contains all 17 episodes from the first season of the show, and is a nice package, but there isn't a lot of potential for replay value here. Once you've seen the gag and the reveal, there isn't a real need to see it again. Still, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment is light years ahead of the brain-dead Punk'd, and shows that pranks can be semi-intelligent.

The Jamie Kennedy Experiment: The Complete First Season DVD set reveals itself on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The episodes included in this three-disc set are all presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio. The images here are very sharp and clear, as the picture often rivals digital broadcast quality. The colors are fine and the image is stable. The only problems occur when the image is coming from one of the smaller hidden cameras, and at those times there is a slight amount of grain. The DVDs carry a Dolby 2.0 Surround audio track. These tracks provide clear dialogue, and only display hissing when there is a microphone problem. The surround effects are limited to audience applause and musical cues.

Jamie Kennedy provides audio commentary over several episodes in the set. He does a fairly good job of describing the situations and what it was like to do a particular gag, but he also goes on and on about his appearance. Disc 3 of this set holds two interesting extra features. First up is "A Conversation with the Creators of The Jamie Kennedy Experiment" (20 minutes), in which Kennedy, along with series co-creators Mike Karz, Adam Small, and Fax Bahr, discuss the origin of the show and how Kennedy's talents were used to create the basis for the program. This featurette includes footage of Kennedy's early stand-up comedy routines, in which her does some of the characters who would eventually be on The Jamie Kennedy Experiment. The other extra is four un-aired sketches from the show which feature alternate victims. This feature is called "2nd Marks" and it's interesting to see a sketch done with a new mark.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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