Judge Lacey Worrell believes that Ashton Kutcher put the "punk" in Punk'd.
Our review of Punk'd: The Complete First Season, published February 17th, 2004, is also available.
You've been punk'd!
Watching Punk'd: The Complete Second Season is a guilty pleasure, with more of an emphasis on guilt than pleasure.
Facts of the Case
Punk'd is a show with a simple premise: Host Ashton Kutcher and a team of producers and actors set up elaborate jokes and surprise celebrities on-camera. The second season of this hit MTV staple features stars like Lindsay Lohan (Freaky Friday) and Beyoncé of R&B group Destiny's Child. Pranks involve celebrities' cars being repossessed or otherwise damaged, a driver's ed lesson gone terribly wrong, and mix-ups in retail stores. There is a particularly compelling segment in which singer Usher's brother is accused of shoplifting and Usher is left to talk his way out of it.
Other stars featured on this season of Punk'd include actress-singer Hilary Duff (A Cinderella Story), Amber Tamblyn (Joan of Arcadia), rapper Missy Elliot, Saturday Night Live alum Tracy Morgan, and singers Mya, Nick Carter, and Tommy Lee, as well as A-listers Katie Holmes (Dawson's Creek) and Halle Berry (Catwoman).
This concept is intriguing, especially because the American public has an insatiable appetite for information on how celebrities live their lives. What else could explain the appeal of the surprisingly touching first two seasons of The Surreal Life, a reality show that forces B- and C-list celebrities to share a house together? Punk'd takes things a step further by putting stars of the MTV generation in potentially stressful situations and filming their reactions.
By far the strongest element of this show is its willingness to embarrass stars on the red carpet. In Episode 206, a woman pretending to be interpreting for a Filipino reporter for Entertainment Weekly asks Entertainment Tonight correspondent Maria Menounos, "Is it awkward talking to a real reporter?" Menounos says, "Not at all!" before scurrying away as fast as she can. Nicole Richie is asked questions like "Are you only famous because of your father?" and "When is your private home video coming out?" before storming away in a huff.
There are a few particularly interesting segments on this collection, especially the one that features Lindsay Lohan, who is rapidly gaining a reputation around Hollywood for being difficult to work with and nasty to fans. For those of you looking for evidence to refute or support this fact, pay close attention to the part where the limo driver announces that his wife is due to give birth; while Lindsay's friend enthusiastically congratulates him, Lindsay doesn't even remove her sunglasses or look up from her cell phone.
Another episode that bears close scrutiny is a Christmas-themed one that features Beyoncé accidentally knocking down a Christmas tree in front of a group of shocked children. It was widely reported that Beyoncé actually figured out that she was being punk'd, necessitating the odd camera angles seen in this segment but nowhere else. In the segment on OutKast, look at Andre 3000's face; he, too, looks as though he isn't buying it. Even Lindsay Lohan giggles and smirks as if she knows something is up. During the airing of the second season of Punk'd, it was inaccurately reported that the show would be canceled because celebrities were getting wise to the tricks, but the show continues.
The packaging of this DVD cleverly avoids mention of the fact that "the complete second season" consists of only eight episodes, which you may want to consider before actually investing your money in this two-disc set. The episodes, however, are rounded out by a fairly generous selection of bonus features, including a particularly interesting segment on the making of the show, featuring OutKast. From planning to implementation, the viewer is left with an appreciation for how necessary it is to pay attention to detail and timing if the stunts are to be successfully pulled off. This release also deserves kudos for ease of navigability; there are at least three scene selections for each episode, making it easy to view the star of your choice.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Host and creator Ashton Kutcher is nothing short of completely annoying. The black-and-white segments, in which he often appears inexplicably wearing a trucker cap or a knit cap with ear flaps, are grating. He is too smug, and his voice has the tendency to veer off into a high-pitched whine as he laments about how stupid his celebrity victims are.
Parents of tweens and teens should also be aware that this is an uncensored edition with liberal use of the "F" word. Because Punk'd trains the spotlight mostly on stars under the age of about 25, its overall appeal is limited in terms of cultivating a broader, multi-generational audience.
Those of you considering this DVD should also take note that the picture is grainy at times; in fact, the entire production from picture to audio is no improvement over what you would expect to see if watching it on MTV.
As with any reality-based show, the best season is always the first, because participants are caught completely unaware and are temporarily unable to scheme about how this will help their visibility. Punk'd: The Complete Second Season is for fans only. The rest of you should catch it in reruns on MTV or rent it from your friendly local video store.
A hung jury on a show and a host that have already overstayed their welcome.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Host Ashton Kutcher
Review content copyright © 2004 Lacey Worrell; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.