When Ashton Kutcher Attacks

Oct 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

It’s one thing when everyone talks about a hit show. It’s something else entirely when that show changes the language. Such is the case with “Punk’d,” which has replaced “prank,” “con” and “hoax” in the national lexicon.
Since March, “Punk’d,” the hidden-camera show that plays practical jokes on famous victims, has blazed through cult and phenomenon status to become a fixture of MTV. First-run episodes consistently ranked in the top five cable programs in the 12 to 34 demo, and roughly 2.8 million people tuned in each week to watch pop stars suffer.
“Punk’d” was a publicity blessing for MTV.
“Just the buzz-people really buzzed about it,” said Rod Aissa, “Punk’d” producer and VP of talent development at MTV. “`Punk’d’ helped establish us as a real programming network.”
MTV has already ordered two more seasons and will use “Punk’d” to anchor a new block of programming on Sunday night.
Much of “Punk’d’s” success is due to Ashton Kutcher, who wears many hats on the show besides his trademark trucker cap. He is co-creator, producer, host and his own best publicist. After the series’ huge premiere (the second biggest in MTV’s history, after “The Osbournes”) Mr. Kutcher was seen everywhere: on the cover of Rolling Stone, on “Saturday Night Live” and in the gossip pages. (Chris Rock suggested during MTV’s “Video Music Awards” that the whole Ashton/Demi Moore thing was Bruce Willis being punk’d.)
As host, Mr. Kutcher provides a bridge between the average viewer and MTV’s rich and famous stars. Best known as the idiot Kelso on “That ’70s Show” and the idiot Jesse in “Dude, Where’s My Car?” Mr. Kutcher comes across as the common man-child, out to prove just how ridiculous the rock-star lifestyle really is.
Therein lies the show’s appeal. It helps that the pranks are funny, but victims we recognize and care about make the show something special.
“We take them off their pedestals and see them as real people,” Mr. Aissa said. “We see them in real-life situations without the layers of publicity.”
Network: MTV
Premiere date: March 17, 2003
Production company: MTV and Katalyst Films
Time slot: The show started on Monday at 10:30 p.m. (ET) but was scheduled to shift to Sunday at 9 p.m. for its return Oct. 26.
Credits: Ashton Kutcher, host; Dax Shepard, Al Shearer and Ryan Pinkston, field agents; Mr. Kutcher and Jason Greenberg, executive producers and co-creators; Bill Rainey, Lois Curren, David Franke, executive producers; Rod Aissa, producer