Last Call: In praise of Trigger Happy TV, the “godfather” of hidden camera prank shows

Screenshot: YouTube
Last CallLast CallLast Call is The Takeout’s online watering hole where you can chat, share recipes, and use the comment section as an open thread. Here’s what we’ve been reading/watching/listening around the office today.

Trigger Happy TV

Many Takeout readers will remember not only a time pre-YouTube, but pre-TiVo, when the only way to revisit our favorite TV shows was manually press record on a VCR. And then there was Trigger Happy TV, which was perhaps my favorite show from the early 2000s (other than The Office). The problem for me was it aired on U.K.’s Channel 4, not in the U.S., so I had to buy a terribly expensive imported DVD of the show, a disc that happened to not play on my stateside DVD player, which necessitated buying a wonky universal DVD player from Chinatown. That’s how much I loved Trigger Happy TV.

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What is it? It’s a hidden camera prank show starring British comedian Dom Joly, who each week unleashed a strange band of characters into a surreal and oddly poetic half-hour collage. The joy in Trigger Happy TV was there’s little mean-spiritedness behind the pranks, just the odd sight of Londoners going about their day and seeing two costumed dogs fistfight. There’s a cartoonish quality to the show, such as the recurring bit where Joly pierces the quiet answering his giant mobile phone. This below might be my favorite clip of all:

My wonky region-free DVD player broke several years back, naturally, and I haven’t revisited Trigger Happy TV in a while. But I’m delighted to have found nearly every full episode of its three-series run on YouTube (there’s an ill-fated recreation for Comedy Central, which Joly disassociated himself from). As one commenter correctly noted, Trigger Happy TV is “the godfather of every YouTube hidden camera ‘prank’ video.”

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About the author

Kevin Pang

Kevin Pang was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace on Netflix.