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  #1  
Old 04-22-2013, 01:50 PM
Fotheringay-Phipps Fotheringay-Phipps is offline
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Why Don't TV Pranksters Get Sued or Prosecuted?

There seem to be a lot of pranks perpetuated by major TV shows (Just for Laughs springs to mind, but there are others) that would be grounds for lawsuits against deep-pocketed defendents in our day and age. To the point where I would wonder that such shows are feasible altogether. But there they are.

FTM, a lot of these things would seem to grounds for criminal prosecution, e.g. pretending to be cops and the like.

Is there some exception in the rules for TV shows? Or are the pranks actually fake (meaning that the supposed victims are in on it)?
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  #2  
Old 04-22-2013, 02:00 PM
Donnerwetter Donnerwetter is offline
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Don't they usually ask the victims for their permission (after the prank, but before the scheduled broadcast)?
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Old 04-22-2013, 02:03 PM
Fotheringay-Phipps Fotheringay-Phipps is offline
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I assume they do, but that only covers permission to use the footage in the broadcast. But you've already detained them for 10 minutes pretending to be a long-winded cop, or made them plop into a bed which has a mattress floating in water etc. etc. That sounds like grounds for a lawsuit or prosecution even if the show never broadcasts.
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Old 04-22-2013, 02:07 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is offline
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The pranks are usually fake. That doesn't necessarily mean that the prank victim knows what is going to happen though. Often they are actors who are hired to basically ad-lib a scenario and they don't necessarily know what will happen next.

That doesn't mean that the actor can't sue if things go horribly wrong.

A few years ago, there was a show whose name I don't recall, but it was basically they would take "friends" of people and prank them in ways to scare them. For example, they might kidnap a guy and his friend and take them out to the desert and act like they were going to execute them, then they would ask the guy if he was scared and the prank would be revealed. While the show always portrayed the people as just friends of someone, in reality they were all actors hired for the part.

One of the actors ended up suing because the gun they used to fire blanks ended up being fired too close to his ear and caused hearing damage. He couldn't sue just because they scared the bejezus out of him by threatening to execute him, because that was the job he was hired for. He could however sue for the hearing damage because that was the fault of the production crew for not taking the appropriate safety precautions.

ETA: The show was "Scare Tactics"

Last edited by engineer_comp_geek; 04-22-2013 at 02:11 PM..
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  #5  
Old 04-22-2013, 02:09 PM
hajario hajario is online now
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The last few of those shows that I have seen don't appear to be filmed in the US. They use pranks where they don't need dialogue like having a bed in a mattress store be full of water or putting a fake skunk under their chair. This is brilliant because they just have to add zany music with lots of trombone and xylophone and it can be shown anywhere in the world. The other reason might be that they are filmed in a local where they are not at a high risk of liability suits.

I can tell you that I would be mightily pissed off if one of those assholes wasted my time and there is no way that I would sign off on letting them use the footage. That's not even considering that my iPhone would be ruined by a water trap.
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Old 04-22-2013, 02:12 PM
Ranger Jeff Ranger Jeff is online now
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There's a lot of people who are willing to go through any indignity if it means they're going to be on television. How else can you explain the guests and audience members of shows like Springer or Maury?
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Old 04-22-2013, 02:19 PM
Donnerwetter Donnerwetter is offline
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I'm again speculating, but one would assume the production company usually offers to write a cheque. For me, that would be the only incentive to be paraded as a goofball on National TV (if at all).
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  #8  
Old 04-22-2013, 02:21 PM
Arkcon Arkcon is offline
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There were a number of lawsuits. Two that I know of:

German couple was led to believe there was a dead body under their hotel bed. They sued the show, and MTV. They got some sort of settlement, presumably. The show was re-tooled, after that Punked focused on celebrity prankings.

Man at the airport was made to believe that he had to lay on the luggage scanner to be x-rayed. This was done by Allen Funt's son for his show. The guy sued, saying in post-911, he couldn't fight back, but felt like he was made a fool of. He could only use grainy airport security footage to show what he endured, because there was no way he could get the footage shot for the show.

There have been several threads on this topic. I think I've given each of these two examples separately in other threads. Lawsuits happen all the time, the person gets dicked around by lawyers until they've wasted enough time and then they accept a settlement. The show's budget handles the payout. As long as its profitable, there's no reason for it to stop.
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  #9  
Old 04-22-2013, 02:23 PM
hajario hajario is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donnerwetter View Post
I'm again speculating, but one would assume the production company usually offers to write a cheque. For me, that would be the only incentive to be paraded as a goofball on National TV (if at all).
I bet that they don't have to do that. Most people, as Ranger Jeff said, are thrilled to be on tv.

I heard an interview with Alan Funt (creator of Candid Camera) one time. He said that over 99% of the time, people will sign the consent form. Most of the time when they didn't it was because the circumstances would have exposed an affair.
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  #10  
Old 04-22-2013, 03:15 PM
kunilou kunilou is online now
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Girls Gone Wild seems to have crossed (or at least gone right up against) the line a few times and has lost a couple of suits. The company is now bankrupt.
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  #11  
Old 04-22-2013, 03:42 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
The pranks are usually fake. That doesn't necessarily mean that the prank victim knows what is going to happen though. Often they are actors who are hired to basically ad-lib a scenario and they don't necessarily know what will happen next.

That doesn't mean that the actor can't sue if things go horribly wrong.

A few years ago, there was a show whose name I don't recall, but it was basically they would take "friends" of people and prank them in ways to scare them. For example, they might kidnap a guy and his friend and take them out to the desert and act like they were going to execute them, then they would ask the guy if he was scared and the prank would be revealed. While the show always portrayed the people as just friends of someone, in reality they were all actors hired for the part.

One of the actors ended up suing because the gun they used to fire blanks ended up being fired too close to his ear and caused hearing damage. He couldn't sue just because they scared the bejezus out of him by threatening to execute him, because that was the job he was hired for. He could however sue for the hearing damage because that was the fault of the production crew for not taking the appropriate safety precautions.

ETA: The show was "Scare Tactics"
I disagree. I don't know about any gun shot lawsuit, but the show "Scare Tactics" was sued in 2003 by a young woman named Kara Blanc, who was not, according to the lawsuit, an actor pretending to be scared -- and she was so frightened by the show's fake extraterristerial that she sought hospital care.
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  #12  
Old 04-22-2013, 03:46 PM
Fotheringay-Phipps Fotheringay-Phipps is offline
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Bricker, perhaps you can comment on the central questions here, especially the criminal aspects.

Is there any reason that TV shows might have more latitude than ordinary people to do things like detain people while pretending to be police officers, or block traffic etc. etc.?
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  #13  
Old 04-22-2013, 04:01 PM
Bricker Bricker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fotheringay-Phipps View Post
Bricker, perhaps you can comment on the central questions here, especially the criminal aspects.

Is there any reason that TV shows might have more latitude than ordinary people to do things like detain people while pretending to be police officers, or block traffic etc. etc.?
A carefully qualified "Yes."

I would imagine that if a reality show blocks traffic, they have gotten a filming permit ahead of time. And while an ordinary citizen (on any day not halloween) might have an uphill battle showing that they had no nefarious intent by dressing up as a police officer, the actors working for the show have a built-in defense.

But detaining someone is a different story. If the person isn't in on the joke, then it's likely to be a crime, show or not.
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  #14  
Old 04-22-2013, 04:08 PM
Fotheringay-Phipps Fotheringay-Phipps is offline
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Thanks.

I don't remember anyone actually being arrested in any of these pranks. But several involved pulling people over for traffic stops.

Also, in many cases they don't specifically force anyone to do anything, but encourage people to assist them by pretending to be cops or EMTs and the like.

Not sure what the status of these are.

Last edited by Fotheringay-Phipps; 04-22-2013 at 04:08 PM..
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  #15  
Old 04-22-2013, 08:09 PM
Senegoid Senegoid is offline
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So what happens if, say, a TV prank pseudo-cop pulls over a driver and demands that he do a field sobriety test by the side of the road?

A driver, believing that pseudo-cop is a really-cop, cannot refuse. Surely that can't ever be allowed.
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