A show that became part of the national vocabulary and made a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to bring trucker's hats back in style again, "Punk'd" ran for two seasons on MTV before host Ashton Kutcher threw in the towel. Essentially a version of Candid Camera where celebrities are often the targets, "Punk'd" got bigger and bolder as the show went on, with the second season having Outkast's ridiculously expensive (and ridiculously uninsured) rental car out for a joyride into a local store's window. The first season DVD set includes all eight episodes from the first season, including these scenes:
My Assistant: Frankie Muniz ("Malcolm in the Middle") gets punk'd when he sees his $250,000 car he left with the valet speed off into the night. Meanwhile, he's getting pitched a terrible idea for a screenplay (which he loves, and was supposed to hate) and chatting up the car thief on his cell phone.
Repossessed: Justin Timberlake nearly cries a river when he comes home to find out that all of his things - including his $8m house - have been taken by the government after his handlers haven't paid any of his taxes.
VH-1 Awards: Ryan Pinkston interviews celebrities on the red carpet - and they don't exactly take too well to his questions.
Shopping Spree: Eliza Dushku gets nabbed in a trendy store when it's believed that she's walking out with merchandise.
Crib Crashers: In one of the season's funniest bits, Mandy Moore is horrified when the run-down trailer she and Todd Oldham are trying to redecorate is suddenly crushed.
He Got Game: A boxer with an overblown ego finds himself with a new opponent: Oscar De La Hoya.
Naked Shopper: Jessica Alba gets upset as her shopping trip is interrupted by a nude shopper who keeps trying to chat with her in the store.
Wilmer's Car: Wilder Valderrama stands in silent horror as his Escalade is smashed by a guy who thinks its Ashton's car.
Housesitter: Potential assistants for Ashton are lead through interview horrors.
Red Carpet: Ryan Pinkston returns to the red carpet to tormet celebs.
Wag the Dog: Justin Timberlake wants to return the punk to Kelly Osbourne. Sharon Osbourne is in on the act, as Kelly finds herself confronted by image consultants who want to turn Kelly into her rival, Christina Aguilera.
Locksmith Larceny: Locksmiths find themselves in the midst of their own crime when the punk'd crew arrives.
Metal Detector: Kevin Richardson (Backstreet Boys) and Trishelle (Real World) can't seem to get past the MTV security guards.
Craps Game: The other best sequence in the season, Seth Green finds himself in the midst of a bust when agents crash Ashton's card game.
Tattoo You: A boyfriend gets upset when Dax tries to put the moves on a girl he's in the middle of tattooing.
Watch My Kid: Jessica Biel gets punk'd when she agrees to babysit a fan's kids for a few moments. The father comes back and accuses her of swearing at and around the kid.
RV Park: "Relatives" of Jessica Simpson arrive in an RV in an attempt to try and "help" her career, much to the dismay of husband Nick Lachey.
No Keys For You: Dax plays valet and nabs a few keys.
Metal Detector: Jason Accula ("Jackass") and Jack Osbourne run into trouble at the security gate at MTV.
Pinching Pink: Another bit in the top three for the season is this one, where Pink gets the blame put on her by boyfriend Corey Hart in a scheme involving stolen motorcycles.
Drinking Games: Stephen Dorff finds a fan buying drinks for him, then finds himself with a tab of several thousand bucks.
Hit & Run: Rosario Dawson finds herself in the midst of a nightmare when a limo driver hits someone with her in the car and speeds off.
Britney Spears: Britney and the punk'd crew try to punk Ashton, but Ashton enlists Britney to reverse the punk on the punk'd crew.
NFL Challenge: Dax and the punk'd crew piss off some NFL players.
The first season of "Punk'd" isn't entirely consistent, but some of the best moments of the season are terrific. The Moore bit remains one of the best simply because of the singer's sincerity and sweetness in seeming geuninely concerned about trying to clean up and make safe the trailer that'll be destroyed momentarily. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Pink punk is a highlight simply for the singer's seemingly volatile nature, which is revealed when the prank is finally revealed to her by Ashton and she freaks out. The Seth Green scene is also one of the best sequences of the show, as the detailed bit locks into place superbly and Green's serious reaction makes it all the more funny. Another minor highlight is a girl who gets her keys taken by the "valet" and flies into a rage. Ryan Pinkston's bits on the red carpet are also amusing, although Denise Richards looks genuinely hurt when he asks her, "How did it feel to play someone smart?"
The two things that make "Punk'd" work so well are the actors and the behind-the-scenes crew, the latter of which are surprisingly only really revealed momentarily in the Justin Timberlake bit, which highlights some of the production design work before the bit starts. There's plenty of production design and details that go into each of the bits, such as the "government" stickers that are slapped on most of the singer's possessions. The show is also tightly edited, keeping the bit going (and, as the commentary admits, to keep out any suspicion by the celebrity in question) and keeping the energy high. The improv actors who populate the bits are also remarkably skilled, including leads Dax and Al. Britney Spears isn't bad (and wears a lower-than-low cut top) being in on the act, but the overly convoluted bit isn't funny.
VIDEO: "Punk'd" is presented largely in 1.33:1 full-frame, although the occasional elements of the show (Kutcher's lead-ins to the bits) are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. The presentation varies occasionally due to the fact that several hidden cameras of varying quality have to be used in the set-ups. Sharpness and detail vary up throughout some of the bits, as some moments appear sharp and well-defined, while grain and softness can enter other moments.
There are a couple of slight instances of compression artifacts scattered throughout the presentation, but the only really noticable problem is with the Mandy Moore bit, which appears to have some technical problem with the original tape. Yet, the Moore bit actually looks a little less problematic here than it did on the actual broadcast. Colors appear natural and well-rendered throughout the show.
SOUND: "Punk'd" is presented with its original 2.0 audio on this DVD set. The audio quality is generally very good, as the recording is surprisingly clean and clear, even in one bit that sounds and looks particularly windy (Pink). The show is actually uncensored here, aside from a couple of random moments where four-letter words are still silenced or bleeped.
EXTRAS: The main bonus feature is commentary from star/creator Ashton Kutcher and star Dax Sheppard, along with brief comments from co-creator Jason Goldberg. The commentary from Kutcher and Sheppard only occasionally actually focuses on the show at-hand, and instead the two go into deep discussions on such topics as what would make a perfect girlfriend and how Kutcher is potentially going bald. They also delight - Beavis and Butthead style - in farting into the microphone. The commentary occasionally offers some interesting behind-the-scenes information about how the bits are pulled off, but completely off-topic stories and rants are the focus. Still, these are often very funny tracks that are well-worth a listen.
Deleted scenes are the other major bonus for the DVD edition. Not every bit has deleted footage included, but some have additional footage that lasts as long as a couple minutes. Viewers have to go into the main menu and turn on the deleted scene option. Then, during some of the episodes, a helicopter logo turns on - viewers click on it to view the deleted footage, then are brought back into the bit.
Two deleted bits are included - "Blind Tattoo" (Al plays a blind tattoo artist) and "Young Executive" (a hilarious bit where 10-year-old Ryan Pinkston convinces potential applicants that he is, in fact, the head of production at MTV). Rounding out the package is a series of promos for other MTV releases. The menus are "hosted" by Kutcher and one must sit through a fairly lengthy set of studio logos and notes about how there's naughty language within before the main menu actually appears.
Final Thoughts: Some of the bits don't work, but most of the first season of "Punk'd" is really quite funny - especially the Seth Green, Pink and Mandy Moore scenes, which are really among the best moments of the now short-lived series. Paramount has pulled together a great DVD set, with good audio/video quality and lots of amusing supplements. Recommended.