Our review of Punk'd: The Complete Second Season, published November 17th, 2004, is also available.
Candid Camera for the ADD crowd.
Welcome to the world of Ashton Kutcher. I remember the days when Kutcher was just a goofy kid starring on a hit sitcom (That '70s Show). Then he made a few movies, including the inexplicably funny Dude, Where's My Car? and the tepid western Texas Rangers. Then he started dating Demi Moore, got himself his own MTV show, and shot to the number one spot with his hit thriller The Butterfly Effect. Suddenly Ashton is everywhere and, seemingly, all things to all people.
In 2003, Kutcher co-wrote and produced the show Punk'd, an updated version of Candid Camera, sans Allen Funt. In Kutcher's Punk'd no one is safe from the humiliation of practical jokes. In one episode pop star Justin Timberlake is told his house, possessions, and even his dogs are being repossessed due to unpaid back taxes. In yet another episode unsuspecting locksmiths think they're helping a storeowner get back into their work place…until they realize they're actually helping a criminal rob the store! And the red carpet will never be the same, when Kutcher sends a little kid into the 2002 VH1 awards show to ask some of the most embarrassing, stupid, and downright offensive questions this side of Joan Rivers. It's all in a day's work for the Punk'd team of misfits, in their never ending quest to make fools out of the rich and famous.
Included on this disc are the following episodes:
Episode 101: My Assistant / Repossessed / VH1 Big in 2002 Awards
Episode 106: Watch My Kid / RV Park / No Keys for You
Whether you find Punk'd funny or not will depend on your enjoyment of watching celebrities looking like fools. In other words, who wouldn't love this show? Created by Ashton Kutcher and executed in a style that makes everyone look like goons, this is a show filled with moments of giddy hilarity, mostly at the expense of the rich and famous.
Some of the highlights include:
Jessica Simpson duping her husband into believing she has `distant' cousins (AKA trailer park trash), and that they've come to stay in their yard, complete with rundown trailer and BBQ grill. This is the exact reason why you want an unlisted address and phone number when you become famous.
When Seth Green (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) is invited by Kutcher to participate in a local gambling event, things get tense when the cops bust in and rat out Green as the man who flipped Kutcher as the head of the gambling ring. Priceless.
Mandy Moore thinks she's going to help a trailer-dwelling backwoods yahoo redecorate his `home' during an MTV "Cribs" episode. But when a crane accidentally drops an enormous iron beam on top of the trailer, Mandy finds herself at the center of blame with a freaked out homeowner on her tail.
In one especially entertaining prank, Ashton's friends and pop singer Britney Spears are out to get Kutcher, the man who says he can't be Punk'd. He's right, of course, and quickly turns the tables on his would-be jokesters with embarrassing results.
I am inclined to catch the second season of this show because of the strength of this first batch of episodes. While I'm always game for watching people played for fools, there's something inherently more scathing (and funny) about watching famous people get their comeuppance. What isn't so funny are the bumpers featuring Kutcher acting like a cocky frat boy. Yelling at the screen with a high pitched squeal that would make Mariah Carey cringe, Kutcher comes off as unlikable and grating. Not the most endearing of qualities with which to gain an audience. But MTV threw loads of cash at Ashton for this show and, in that respect, he doesn't disappoint.
There isn't much else to say about a show liked Punk'd. If you're into Perry Como and Jack Parr, this won't likely be your cup of tea. However, if you like seeing one of the Backstreet Boys, err, I mean N'Sync members, or whatever, as the butt of a very funny joke, Punk'd is definitely for you.
Each episode in Punk'd: The Complete First Season is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, its original aspect ratio on television. If you've seen any type of reality program in the last five years you pretty much know what to expect here: grainy footage, some decent shots, and lots of shaky camera work. The colors and black levels are good for the medium, and while the overall effect isn't a great looking transfer, I guess that's kind of the point. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital Surround in English. Much like the video portions of this disc, the audio is nothing to write home about. Most of the dialogue is clear and well heard, which is pretty much all you need out of a show about hidden cameras and pranks. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on either disc.
Paramount and MTV have added on a few obnoxious extra features, starting with commentary tracks on each episode during which Ashton and Dax are as goofy as ever. Though it's all pretty free range, the two focus on a few fun stories from various shoots. Fans will be thrilled to see deleted scenes that can be inserted into the various episodes throughout the disc. Two extra segments, "Young Executive" and "Blind Tattoo," are funny, though not as funny as some of the other skits in the final airings. Finally there are some weird shorts featuring Ashton yelling at the screen ("Download and Share"), and a promo for other MTV products on DVD (including the "Real World Hook Ups," which looks like an STD on a DVD).
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