TIMELINE

By Bruce Fretts and Mike Flaherty
Updated July 13, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
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From Survivor to Temptation Island, 21st-century TV has yielded an embarrassment of embarrassments. Yet real people have always been willing to make Jackasses out of themselves for a shot at small-screen fame. Here’s our sweeping (but by no means complete) look at the long and inglorious history of Humiliation TV.

CANDID CAMERA (debuted 1948) Allen Funt’s pioneering practical-joke-apalooza started on radio as Candid Microphone, yet actually seeing the unsuspecting victims being told to ”smile!” after looking foolish on national TV only made it funnier. No wonder the show was still running (with son Peter Funt hosting) as recently as last year.

BEAT THE CLOCK (1950) True, no one ever barbecued himself, but players did attempt to complete some pretty wacky stunts — like trying to squeeze a dozen balloons into their long johns — before time ran out on emcee Bud Collyer’s long-running hit.

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES (1950) God forbid you should miss one of the tricky questions on this game show (which Bob Barker began hosting in 1956). Losers were forced to perform degrading stunts — or, even worse, be reunited with long-lost relatives.

YOU BET YOUR LIFE (1950) The secret word is…insults. Decades before Link’s Anne Robinson cut down contestants, Groucho Marx perfected the art of the quiz-show zinger. (When an overweight woman cited eating as one of her habits, Groucho quipped, ”Well, that’s fairly evident.”)

QUEEN FOR A DAY (1956) A parade of bedraggled housewives would share their sob stories (e.g., a poverty-stricken mother of 16 needed cash to replace her husband’s broken glass eye) with host Jack Bailey, then the audience would applaud to crown the most pathetic. Now, that’s a pity party.

LET’S MAKE A DEAL (1963) And behind door No. 1 we have…yahoos dressed in ridiculous costumes screaming at emcee Monty Hall to pick them!

THE JOE PYNE SHOW (1965) Geraldo, Schmeraldo. Tough-talking, cigarette-puffing Pyne butted heads with neo-Nazis and assorted nutcases on his ”fist in the mouth” syndicated talk show way back before Rivera even got into television.

THE DATING GAME (1965)/THE NEWLYWED GAME (1966) Creator Chuck Barris’ double dose of double entendres gave bad taste a bad name. Even if the ”in the butt, Bob” story is an urban legend, nobody disputes the fact that Newlywed host Bob Eubanks actually asked a woman, ”What’s the strangest place you ever made whoopee?”

AN AMERICAN FAMILY (1973) It was supposed to be a highbrow PBS documentary following a typical California clan, the Louds. But after son Lance announced his homosexuality and Mom and Dad split up, it turned out to be TV’s first fact-based soap — the real Real World.

ALMOST ANYTHING GOES (1975) Teams from three small towns competed against one another in such events as driving a golf cart through an obstacle course while balancing an egg on their heads. Lending an air of dignity to the proceedings: cohost Regis Philbin.

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