Hidden-camera comedy is an established form: Ever since Candid Camera, TV has tried to outdo itself with new gimmicks. Punk’d played pranks on unsuspecting celebrity targets. Scare Tactics put a supernatural spin on things. Now Betty White is jumping into the fray with Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, a series that sees senior citizens pranking much younger marks.
White recently shared breakfast with attendees of the Television Critics Association press tour to tease the new NBC series.
“I think the angle or the strategy of this show is that it’s the seniors pranking the younger people,” White explained. “Instead of [the seniors as] the poor ones being taken advantage of, don’t sell them short. They’re just hip enough and maybe mean enough to want to get even.”
The producers of Off Their Rockers have assembled a team of agile seniors to play tricks on the show's youthful targets.
“They found these people who enjoyed kind of playing along with the gag,” White remarked.
White took care to point out that the comedy of Off Their Rockers is never mean-spirited. Sure, hidden-camera shows rely on making a fool of their subjects, but White insisted that the humor will remain well-intentioned. That can be tough when runaway wheelchairs are wreaking havoc, but White believes the show can pull it off.
“Things aren’t funny if it’s mean spirited,” she reflected. “It’s not that kind of a show. It’s just a silly, fun show, and I think one that will appeal to all ages, because younger people might get a kick out of seeing the oldsters get a jump on somebody, and oldsters might see it and say, ‘Hey, go get ‘em!’”
Though she’s not heavily involved in the production of Off Their Rockers, White remains one of the hardest-working women in Hollywood. Her accomplishments would be impressive even if she weren’t well past what some would consider retirement age—she turns 90 on Tuesday.
“Who at this age is lucky enough to working as much as I am?” White asked. “First of all, on a series that I absolutely love [Hot in Cleveland] with three of the most wonderful gals that ever drew breath.”
In the last few years she’s also published two books, hosted Saturday Night Live, appeared in films, and continued to do work for many charitable causes.
“I’m not only blessed with good health, but good energy,” White said. “I’m just at one of those good times in your life, and there’s been so many of those through those 90 years, but I’m at one of the high spots. I’m healthy enough to enjoy it. I’m surrounded by friends I adore. Isn’t that kind of the best way to sign off?”
And with Off Their Rockers, White continues to spread her message—that getting older doesn’t mean getting less funny. This is a series where the senior citizens are the ones who are in on the jokes.
“I think it’s just kind of a reverse psychology of the poor old senior,” White said. “It’s, ‘Hey, we’ve got a sense of humor, too, warped as it may be.’”
Betty White’s Off Their Rockers airs a special preview episode tonight at 9:30pm on NBC, after Betty White's 90th Birthday Special.