Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Punk'd: The Complete First Season

Ashton Kutcher's celebrity prank show Punk'd updates Candid Camera for the Eminem generation by infusing it with teenybopper star power and near-toxic levels of frat-boy attitude. Like a Red Bull-crazed Wizard Of Oz, co-creator Kutcher lurks behind the scenes, feeding lines to actors performing elaborate pranks, and handling hosting duties with way too much enthusiasm. The celebrity angle makes the show perversely fascinating: Punk'd takes famous people who are used to being pampered, and deposits them in situations where their celebrity often carries no weight, at which point they're treated like shady characters and common criminals. The show has a weird element of class aggression, too. While it may seem like Kutcher has monopolized supermarket tabloids since birth, he didn't become a TV star until after high school, and one of the show's major themes is how easily gullible, sheltered Hollywood types are duped by the natural cunning of earthy Midwesterners. True pop television, Punk'd offers a voyeuristic glimpse into celebrity culture. It's amusing to note, for example, how earnestly many white male celebs have assimilated both beginner Ebonics and the Kutcher-specific usage of the word "punk" into their vocabularies. "Are you punking me, dog?" Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson even asks Kutcher plaintively at one point. Much like its station sibling Jackass, Punk'd is a testosterone-fest with an undeniable homoerotic undercurrent: It's tempting to read both shows as being about ostensibly heterosexual young men who sublimate their attraction to each other by performing attention-grabbing adolescent stunts. In the show's most overtly satiric segment, Kelly Osbourne is offered an opportunity to re-create herself as a Christina Aguilera-like sexpot. "We took Pink out of a bowling alley and put her where she's at," Punk'd operative Dax Shepard boasts matter-of-factly. It's way too easy to believe him, even after–hell, especially after–watching Pink herself get punk'd.