Over the last decade or two, reality TV has dominated the airwaves and, it's not unexpected. The ratings were there and the shows were increasingly cheap to produce, given the fact that they didn't involve writers and the talent was cheap. The Learning Channel started broadcasting "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo." (See "South Park's brilliant "Raising the Bar" episode.)
However, in recent years, ratings have sunk to new lows, even for some of the genre's biggest shows. Perhaps audiences have gotten tired of a dozen various singing shows, although to give the sub-genre credit, I didn't think "Idol"'s success would last as long as it has.
Where fatigue hasn't visibly set in (Fox's "Utopia", an expensive experiment that turned out to be an unbelievably obnoxious show that didn't last a full season), even blurred nudity wasn't enough to get people interested in VH-1's "Dating Naked" (which sounds like a "Simpsons" parody of reality TV, although perhaps the genre has become a parody of itself at this point.)
That brings us to "Impractical Jokers", which feels - kind of like FYI's "Epic Meal Empire" - like it was a Youtube series that somehow made it to television (well, TruTV, which is barely television.) The series follows comedy troupe Joe Gatto, James Murray, Brian Quinn and Sal Vulcano as they play practical jokes that involve members of the public. If the goal of networks is to make cheaper and cheaper programming, "Impractical Jokers" is the absolute peak, as the series looks like it cost about five bucks to make.
Apparently, the group won NBC's "It's Your Show" competition, which I've never heard of, but apparently it must be like NBC's "Last Comic Standing", where every season (for 8 or 9 seasons now) the winner is supposed to get their own show and then ... well, doesn't. After a couple of attempts, they wound up with "Impractical Jokers", which sees the group in various public places challenging each other to pull off various pranks.
I have nothing against reality TV in the slightest, I have something against lack of imagination - once an idea works, it's mined to the point of boredom. As someone who's about to get rid of cable, it's not that I don't like TV (anything but), but after hearing "let me get an expert in here..." ten thousand times on "Pawn Stars" or watching what seems like a million "Quickfire Challenges" on "Top Chef", I'm bored. Apparently, I'm not alone, 2013 was the first full year decline of subscription TV (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-19/u-s-pay-tv-subscriptions-fall-for-first-time-as-streaming-gains.html) and the trend appears to continue. While HBO and Showtime have managed strong dramatic fare in recent years, the rest of cable is increasingly lackluster.
"Impractical Jokers" is cheap and crass, but I'll give it this: it has two jokes (the joke itself and the frequent and very visible humiliation of the member who has to pull the prank off, so everyone's uncomfortable) and they work pretty well. The cast members take turns as the others come up with embarrassing situations for them to get into with random people. I can't watch this show for hours on end, but I've admittedly started watching an episode or two if I stumble across it while flipping through channels.
Examples of some of the gags played on the public include: goofing off in a dentist office, trying to get strangers to hold their hands, try to convince people not to buy something in a grocery store, try to teach a dance class, dip their fries into other people's food and ask bizarre survey questions. Inevitably, someone gets punished after failing enough during the episode.
"Impractical Jokers" is certainly not "Kenny Vs Spenny" (that series is available to view for free under Kenny's Youtube channel here: Playlists), but really, what is? Still, the series gets some good laughs at times.
This set includes the entire second season.
Video/Audio: The show is given a solid presentation; while it's a very low-budget series, clarity and detail appear very nice. No artifacting or other concerns are noted and colors appear bright and clear. Dialogue seems natural and well-recorded.
Extras:: Audio commentaries, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes clips. I'm pleasantly surprised, as there's some very nice extras here on a set that could have easily just been bare bones.
Final Thoughts: For those who haven't seen "Kenny vs Spenny", immediately check that out at the link above. "Impractical Jokers" is a little repetitive and isn't as inspired as that darkly funny Canadian series, but it offers some very good chuckles. Recommended.