Having premiered in 1989 as a special that garnered huge ratings, "America's Funniest Home Videos" quickly became a weekly staple with comedian Bob Saget hosting for eight seasons while current host Tom Bergeron - who also moonlights as host of "Dancing With The Stars" - has been at the helm for the last nine. To celebrate the show's 20th anniversary, Bergeron and the "AFHV" producers stopped by the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills and our Jim Halterman was there.
7:05 PM - Paley's Craig Hitchcock intros tonight's event looking back on 20 years of "America's Funniest Home Videos," during which it has given away over $10 million in prizes.
7:07 PM - Cynthia Littleton, Deputy Editor of Variety and contributor to Variety.com's On The Air, is moderating tonight and gushes that the show is "incredibly personal" because it is her nine year old's favorite show and it's also the "lone bastion of family entertainment." Cynthia introduces the first of many clips that we'll see throughout the night.
7:13 PM - Cynthia calls the group to the stage: Co-Executive Producer Todd Thicke! Co-Executive Producer Michelle Nasraway! Host Tom Bergeron! Executive Producer/Creator Vin Di Bona! Bergeron yells out that he loves seeing his producers so nervous.
7:15 PM - Cynthia asks what's the secret sauce that has helped sustain the show for 20 years. "People tune in and know that we promise that they're going to laugh," Vin explains. "That's the contract with the audience. It's never been said but we feel that it's a responsibility that we love to have."
7:17 PM - "We try to have a little something for everybody," says Todd on his theory on the longevity. "You can watch it with your kids, your grandparents, relatives and there's something for everyone. In every show we try to hit every note. We try to have someone getting whacked but also have sweet, nice moments with goofy dogs, sweet wedding proposals."
7:18 PM - The reasons kids and families love the show? "Kids fall down for a living," Vin says. "When they see an adult fall down it's really fun for them to see that and that's the most important part of the show to get the families in together to say 'Hey, let's get together and have a good time.'
7:20 PM - "Do you think we'll see any whales?" says Vin in retelling a story about the randomness of the video taping where an elderly woman being filmed during whale watching. At the very moment she said those words, a whale came up 4 feet from the boat and then went back down.
7:21 PM - Vin is dumbfounded. "Why would anybody buy a trampoline after seeing our show?"
7:23 PM - Vin feels the key to the show's success is not the clips but the adjoining writing. "The clip can be inherently funny but if the writing is counterpoint to what the clip is then it's a second joke so you're laughing at least twice as hard or maybe twice from seeing the same clip so if there's any place where I would put the success of the show in its longevity outside of everyone sending in clips it's in the writing."
7:25 PM - There are some videos that they're tempted to run but inevitably get nixed. "There are many clips that are very funny," Vin says, "but we say that it's really bad parenting. Parents should know that there are things that they should be watching their children do, not letting them do it."
7:26 PM - In the early days of the show, Vin revealed, they would get 35 huge mail bags a day from the post office. The process for picking and receiving videos has gotten increasingly easier with submissions coming via email uploads. They now receive 1,500 clips over the internet per week.
7:28 PM - Cynthia stresses "the show predicted the whole YouTube age, the rise of user generated video and the zeal for people to broadcast themselves. You got all those mail bags because people were responding to a forum for this new technology."
7:30 PM - Vin shares a good lesson for the entertainment business - he pitched a pre-"AFHV" show called "Animal Crack-ups" 136 times before selling it but, on the other hand, "we pitched 'Home Videos' at ABC and we sold it once in four minutes." Vin also got ABC to give him $100,000 from the get-go to put ads in TV Guide and People for video submissions and suddenly people were sending in tapes.
7:34 PM - "We have received over 700,000 domestic submissions and we've actually aired approximately 3% of those so you can tell how particular we are," says Michelle, who added that they do send the tapes back if the person submitting sent in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Otherwise, they are recycled.
7:36 PM - It's time for "kid clips" with little tykes falling down, getting scared, making faces of disgust (at another kid sneezing the entire contents of his nose on his face).
7:40 PM - Michelle admits she can watch vomit all day long but finds snot intolerable. Tom looks at her and exclaims, "You can watch vomit all day long?!"
7:41 PM - "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," Vin says about coming full circle with YouTube using clips. "It is discouraging but I think at this point we have to embrace it and figure out a way to monetize how they're monetizing and I think it's the only direction that we can take."
7:44 PM - "What you see is what you get," says Vin about working with Tom. "He's just a thrill to work with in the studio. He's just a calming influence on everyone including us." Tom said that it took him a year and a half to get original host Bob Saget to come back for the 20th Anniversary episode. "I played him like a violin!" Tom shares.
7:47 PM - "Get that guy!" Vin's mother said these words to Vin regarding Tom when they were looking for a new host.
7:51 PM - It's time for... animal clips! A dog biting its own legs. Horses biting people. (It's hard not to laugh!)
7:56 PM - On the complicated process of getting clearances for the videos. Michelle explains that the clearance team is like a group of detectives often having to hunt down random people in the clip (a hotel employee in the background, for example) in order to secure permission for showing the clip.
8:00 PM - With the advent of uploading video via the internet, Michelle says they can turn around a video to put in the show within a day.
8:02 PM - The video camera from the first winning clip on the show is now housed in the Smithsonian Institute.
8:03 PM - More clips with great moments from Saget's era as well as a compilation of the best groin hits. Seeing someone get hit "where it hurts" never grows old, does it?
8:08 PM - Our panelists agree that they are amazed at the lengths people go to in their video submissions. In the "Assignment America" segment, audiences were told to film unique ways of cracking an egg and one person sent film of an actual 747 pulling up to an egg. "The ingenuity of the American public... it really is astounding!" says Todd.
8:11 PM - "Stupid is universal," says Tom when Cynthia asks if there is a difference in videos submitted from different parts of the country.
8:14 PM - It's time for... wait for it... cat clips! Cats throwing up, cats hanging from ceiling beams with their claws and even more cats doing flips in the air and falling off tables.
8:16 PM - Michelle says that even though she thinks clips featuring dogs are funnier, they have to have the same number of cat and dog clips or viewers will complain. "Dogs will do anything and eat anything," says Todd.
8:17 PM - "This is the most amazing franchise," says Tom who says he has been seen on taxi monitors in Vietnam and fans from Morocco have told him the show airs twice daily there. "Apparently I speak fluent Arabic," says Tom.
8:18 PM - Vin Di Bona trivia - Vin produced the original pilot of the ABC series "MacGyver" and he also had a regional pop hit on the radio when he was singing at the age of 15.
8:21 PM - A small break for... wedding mishaps! Lots of brides and grooms either falling asleep or fainting at the alter as well as a few priests.
8:23 PM - Q&A time with the crowd. A fan asks Vin if he's every concerned with some of the copycat shows that are out there. "We don't really care," says Vin. "We just enjoy doing our show and presenting to the public what we feel they like. Quite frankly, I'm not sure we ever watch those other shows but it's fine. It's a big business. Comedy is comedy and we do it our way."
8:25 PM - It's revealed that Tom likes it very, very cold in the studio. Michelle wears a jacket and leather gloves during tapings.
8:28 PM - One way to encourage the audiences to dress up for tapings? Offer a cash prize for "best dressed."
8:32 PM - Tom's favorite video ever? A woman doing a tandem skydive and, as she flashes a huge smile, her false teeth fly out into the air. Yes, he said, they employed slow-motion for that one.
8:34 PM - One final video montage features the best of season 20 and that's a wrap!
"America's Funniest Home Video" airs every Sunday on ABC at 7:00/6:00c.