If Howie Mandel has finally caught on to a fad, you know it’s about five years stale — so when FOX debuts his oddly-timed flash mob special, “Mobbed,” it clearly won’t be the first time spontaneous dancing has happened on primetime.
A flash mob, for those of you pretending not to know just to frustrate us, is a group of people who assemble in a public place and, without warning, burst into amateurish choreography they’ve secretly rehearsed at another location.
The flash mob has been co-opted as a guerrilla marketing tactic, a pass time for unemployed entertainers and now… a vehicle for Howie Madel to help people play adorable pranks, stage proposals and even quit their jobs. (Not a good idea if you’ll be asking for a reference, by the way.)
But who went there first? We’ve got a few examples of the best uses of the flash mob on TV — every one of them Howie-free:
Season 5 kicked of with Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) in some dire straights (surprise!), but at least she got a dose of whimsy while she drank one of her signature iced coffees — you know, until Mexican mafiosos crashed the party. This clip also attempts to explain the impetus for flash mobs. “Because it’s cool.” In 2009, sure.
Nothing says “I love you” like an uptight workaholic surprising his boyfriend with a flash mob. When Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) lured Cam (Eric Stonestreet) to the mall during the freshman season of “Modern Family,” the only thing better than the dance was Cam’s desperate need to join in.
We also give the show serious props for its excellent song choice.
“Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”
Jamie Oliver wins for creativity! Not only did he not go to a mall, his mass stir fry, to the best of our knowledge, is the only example of choreographed cooking in a flash mob. Unfortunately, we’ve got to say that those strategically placed tables take away from the spontaneity a bit.
While we can only imagine a flash-mob-themed episode of “Glee” is already in the works for Season 4 or 5, the show did go there during Season 1 — in one of the series’ best episodes, no less. This Joss Whedon-directed flash mob lifted Artie (Kevin McHale) out of his wheelchair to show off his slick moves for the first time at, you guessed it, the mall.