TV Recap: Repeat After Me (Series Premiere)

Written by Aaron Sarnecky



Repeat After Me is inspired by a segment on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. In this hidden camera show, host Wendi McLendon-Covey dictates to celebrities through an earpiece, putting them in comedic and awkward situations with ordinary people. The first episode features Scott Foley, Sarah Hyland, and Randy Jackson.

Hidden camera shows are nothing new. They’ve actually been around for quite a while now. Usually they take one of two routes — mostly serious or extremely silly. Each has their own strengths, but both tend rely on their ability to surprise the audience. In the case of Repeat After Me, the surprise is meant to come from what ridiculous thing the celebrity does next.

Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal
Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal

And, for the most part, it works. Going into each segment, we are given very little information other than who the star is and what their situation is. In the case of the first segment, Scandal star Scott Foley interviews a potential babysitter who, of course, does not know she is on television. Only host Wendi McLendon-Covey knows where the situation will go.

The secretive nature of gag keeps the viewer invested, at least until the end of the segment. Regarding Foley, most of what he says is meant make things awkward or strange, like when he says his children are psychopaths and that his 6-year old smokes. Humorously, the babysitter asks, “Smokes what?”

Moments like this make it apparent that the gag’s effectiveness largely depends on the victim’s willingness to go along. Naturally, they all know something is off, but they still buy into whatever the celebrity is saying. So when Foley tests the sitter by crying like a baby, the sitter obliges and tries to comfort him.

Sometimes, however, you do wonder why an ordinary person would put up with certain behavior. This is best highlighted in the second segment, in which Modern Family star Sarah Hyland asks a language coach to help her learn French. The meeting begins cordial enough, but for a large portion of the segment McLendon-Covey tells Hyland to act obnoxiously. This includes a little mocking of the language coach.

This makes Hyland’s bit much less enjoyable to watch, and one has to feel a little bad for the language coach. Fortunately, the bit does end on better note, returning to the odd humor that made the first segment funny. It’s just a shame that most of Hyland’s part had to be annoying.

Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal
Photo Credit: ABC/Kelsey McNeal

As for former American Idol judge Randy Jackson, his segment is the shortest and is not all that interesting. He is not forced to act all that obnoxiously, but really the only fun to be had is watching the victims play along innocently. Jackson ends up laughing half the time, ruining some moments. Luckily, McLendon-Convey salvages the situation shortly after, revisiting Foley’s crying baby impression, crowning it the best moment of the night.

It might come into question whether or not, with acts like Jackson’s, the situations are staged and the people are in on the joke. For now, it does seem genuine, as the cameras seem to be in realistic places. The people are also brought in on stage when the bits are over, and they seem to be realistically surprised. The fact that they don’t overreact actually lends more to the show’s authenticity.

Questions of genuineness aside, the show is actually funny, especially when the celebrities do weird things. It does get a little stale after the first segment, but it’s probably largely at the mercy of the situation and the people involved. Viewers might, therefore, pick and choose to watch episodes based on the featured stars. But that could just be enough to keep this show on the air.

Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)



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