If you're looking for the roots of today's glut of "reality TV", the answer might be a show that owes its existence more to Candid Camera than anything else, even though the cameras used weren't hidden.
America's Funniest Home Videos is one of ABC's longest running active primetime shows, having launched in 1988. Keeping it in series format is a different story altogether.
The first episode was meant to be a 1-shot special, hosted by actor-comedian Bob Saget (Full House), but was a ratings bonanza, such that ABC ordered it to series almost immediately. Originally a half-hour show, Funniest eventually expanded to a full hour, initially with 2 separate episodes, then the current one hour format used the last several years. Saget left after a few years, and Funniest was put on the bench to start the 1997-8 season. When it returned, former VH1 personality John Fugelsang and MTV alumnus Daisy Fuentes (ex-House of Style) took over. That didn't last long, just a couple of years. Funniest went back to the bench for specials hosted by the likes of D. L. Hughley before returning to a series format, and its present hour-long itineration, in 2001, with Tom Bergeron (Hollywood Squares, Dancing With The Stars) as host.
However, after 14 seasons of multi-tasking, Bergeron is stepping down, and earlier this week, ABC named his successor, recent Dancing With The Stars winner Alfonso Ribiero (ex-Catch 21, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Silver Spoons). There've been a couple of occasions where the series has been in syndication, but it doesn't stick in some cities due to the glut of talk and courtroom shows. Ironic, isn't it?
Following is an episode from the Saget era:
Art Linkletter was right. People are funny.