CAIRO: A picture circulating on social media claims to show one of the cameramen working on prank TV show “Watch Out For Fifi” with Hassan El-Raddad — one of the show’s guests — before filming began, bolstering long-held suspicions that such shows are scripted in advance.
Egyptian star Fifi Abdo, the host of “Watch Out For Fifi” — which uses hidden cameras placed in Abdo’s home — claims the picture is a fake.
“The picture is fabricated and it is not from my show,” she said. “New technology can do more than this. Besides, isn’t it possible that the director of the show missed something while he was editing?”
The picture has reignited the long-running debate over whether prank shows are themselves faked. Many viewers believe that the celebrity guests know in advance what is going to happen.
Mohamed El-Morsy, a professor of mass communication at Cairo University, said that the majority of viewers believe the shows are, at least, exaggerated and that the pranks are agreed with the guests beforehand.
“This is confirmed by the amount of exaggeration as well as the real health risks in some dangerous situations, which could lead to real heart attacks if the scene is not previously agreed on,” El-Morsy said.
But El-Morsy noted that prank shows remain popular with TV audiences “especially if they are carried out in an ethical way.”
The shows depend on an important psychological aspect, he suggested: That the viewers puts themselves in the shoes of the show’s guests.
Prank shows consistently bring in high ratings in the Arab world and are extremely popular with advertisers, he said, which means they also make huge profits.
However, El-Morsy added that prank shows have gradually turned into “the goose that laid the golden egg,” with networks milking them in a way that, he said, has a negative effect. “They contain violence, cursing, and humiliation — whether of the guest or the host,” he told Arab News. “Thus, the viewer is actually hurt by all this exaggeration.”
Indeed, El-Morsy believes that viewers are starting to lose interest in the shows and will “morally reject them.”
“If they continue with all these platitudes, they will come to an end soon,” he said.
Abdo’s show is not the first prank show to be accused of fabrication. Egyptian entertainer Ramez Galal’s long-running series of Ramadan prank shows has also faced similar charges.
In 2014, actress Athar El-Hakim filed a report with the prosecutor general to block an episode of the show in which she appeared — “Ramez the Sea Shark” — from being broadcast on satellite channels.
However, a video reportedly leaked by Galal showed El-Hakim agreeing to appear in the episode and play along with the prank. The disagreement was over the fee she would receive for doing so.
Another show, “Crazy Taxi,” was slammed last year when pictures posted on social media revealed that the instigator of the prank hired professional stuntmen to play the role of the victims. But the show was still renewed for a second season, with a third rumored to be in the pipeline.
Nagwa Kamel, another professor of mass communication at Cairo University, said Galal’s shows, in particular, have gone too far.
“I refuse to watch prank shows because I am not sadistic. I don’t like to see people afraid and terrorized,” she said. “What’s so funny about that? It is unacceptable.”