When you look back at the funniest practical jokes on Punk’d, it’s not necessarily the plan or it’s execution that got the laugh; it was the aftermath. Beyonce’s look of horror as she tips the giant Christmas tree onto the kids’ presents. Justin Timberlake’s melt down as they cart off his possessions. On Betty White’s new prank show Off Their Rockers, the actual set-ups are prettying amusing, but the unknowing participants aren’t getting mad at the aged nun nearly running them down in her power chair, they’re laughing. And that, for some reason, takes the fun out of it.
The best part of the show is definitely Betty’s little scenes between prank montages. All she has to do to endear herself to an audience at this point is smile at the camera, but the skits are genuinely funny, although they might give you grandparent-related nightmares. Betty uses her pal’s head as a dart board, sips from a giant wine glass, and seems maybe a little too eager to frost a buff house-guest’s naked chest. Her bits made me wish they’d offered her a sketch comedy show instead of a half-hour of pranks.
The set ups weren’t wholly without laughs, there were a few that really stood out:
When two old men sat on either sides of a college-aged girl and insisted on doing the wave, she gamely joined in. Senior citizens can be so persuasive.
The only time a by-stander got remotely mad was when an older woman at a hot dog stand wouldn’t serve her a soda, eventually abandoning the food cart and flipping the customer off. The woman was agitated that she wasn’t getting her soda, but in the end she was too shocked by the old woman’s actions to get really upset. They should just make all the DMV workers be over eighty, then no one will be able to vent their frustration on the counter workers.
The absolute winner was an old woman stopping a woman in her thirties asking her to decode the sex slang in the text her boyfriend sent her. The woman asked to help looks so uncomfortable and yet so determined to assist the elderly. When she doesn’t know any of the terms she even offers one she does know, “rusty trombone,” though she can’t quite bring herself to define it for Granny. I don’t know if she’s rushing off in the end to finally visit her real grandmother or to spend some time on urban dictionary.
Off Their Rockers is worth watching, but my advice for the show runners in the future: less candid camera, more Betty White.