The new merry pranksters

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Mary Gustafson, McKnight's Staff Writer
Mary Gustafson, McKnight's Staff Writer
I was prepared for the worst — yes, I was prepared to have a strong negative reaction to the new Betty White-hosted prank show “Betty White's Off Their Rockers.”

I know it sounds counterintuitive to predict that I'll respond poorly to something produced by Betty White, but I'm on the record as being opposed to exploiting a person's age for laughs. However, I'm delighted to report that such was not the case when I tuned in last Wednesday night for the premiere of White's show.

If you haven't seen the new NBC reality show, “Off Their Rockers” it's a hidden camera show in which a group of elderly pranksters set out to pull ridiculous and often deeply silly gags on unsuspecting 20- and 30-somethings.

For example, in this clip, one of the elderly actors — lugging what looks to be an oxygen tank — sits down next to a woman in a public patio area, and goes about hooking himself up to the tank. He inhales deeply and starts talking to the woman and it becomes clear what he inhaled was helium, not oxygen. After exclaiming that his medical supply store gave him the wrong tank, he attempts to light up a cigarette, scaring the daylights out of the unknowing bystander.

The jokes and pranks rely heavily on seniors engaging in activities that are at least 40 years out of character, thus preying on their marks' stereotypes about aging. Yet, despite the gimmick, I was charmed. If all of the pranks had been focused on the shock value of old people talking about wild sexual exploits (there were only one or two like that) it wouldn't have worked for me. Instead, it was a group of really great actors having a blast, and that's a concept I wholeheartedly support.

In fact, it almost made me want to swing by the closest nursing home and organize some Improv Everywhere-esque subterfuge. Nursing homes should not be laughter-free zones.

If this TV show proved anything to me, it was that silliness is something you can enjoy — and engage in at any age.

So, to Betty White, I salute you on another job well done.

You can catch it Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. (Central Time), on NBC.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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