End of the Road
Storage War of the Worlds
Fright at the Museum
Impractical Jokers is arguably one of the best prank shows on TV. It’s smartly written, simple and plays on natural reactions to gauge the best laughs from the four friends and their victims. It’s such an amazingly simple concept and one that’s difficult to replicate. After riding a wave of bad publicity earlier this year, Prank Encounters drops on Netflix hoping to grab some of that lucrative sauce Impractical Jokers and other successful prank shows have managed to conjure up. Unfortunately the show fails to garner up laughs or compelling pranks, regularly leaving you wondering whether everything, including the unsuspecting victims, is set-up for our amusement.
Split across 8 episodes, Gaten Matarazzo takes the helm as executive producer as we dive into elaborately constructed pranks designed to play on the supernatural or horror elements before a big reveal at the end. Across the 25 minute episodes, a good 15 minutes of that is used for the set-up, as fictitious stories are used to sucker our victims into believing monsters, ghosts or haunted teddy bears are real before all hell breaks loose. Just as things reach their most dramatic crescendo, Gaten jumps out from behind the veil and reveals to everyone it’s all a big, elaborate prank. It’s a set-up that’s very familiar to anyone who watched Candid Camera or Punk’d but never quite achieves that same level of infamy.
In this day and age, many people are pretty suspicious when it comes to trusting strangers and even something as simple as giving out free samples is met with a contemptuous look. While I can believe these people fall for the original stories and do their best to play up to the role, when supernatural occurrences do actually start occurring, there’s a shocking lack of urgency or believable panic from anyone involved. While we’re told most of the cast on set are actors, they do a pretty poor job with their lines and most of the time it all feels contrived and wooden. The reaction from the victims is equally poor too and whether it be monotonous exclamations of “Oh my gosh” or sudden bursts of panic followed up by expressionless faces, Prank Encounters never settles into a natural rhythm nor does it ever feel like it’s a natural prank show.
In an age of YouTubers pranking each other and a whole host of people like Aaron Crascall or Michael and Morty propelling themselves to infamy through their pranks, Prank Encounters feels like a corporate attempt at the same thing and it falls flatter than the reactions of the victims at the end of the second episode in this series. Prank Encounters is a poor prank show and fails to really elevate itself beyond the contrived premise it sets for itself. A shame for sure but while some may enjoy this one, there’s far better content in this field to chew through, making this a difficult show to recommend.