This week marked the return of a very important television show after a long hiatus drove its passionate fans nuts. That show would be… “Mad Men.”
Also, MTV’s “Punk’d” returned with new episodes for the first time since 2007.
Five years seems like a long time to wait for any TV show’s return, but the new “Punk’d” — which isn’t much different from the old “Punk’d” — probably isn’t counting on longtime fans. Even less than the recent revival of “Beavis and Butthead,” the new “Punk’d” isn’t dependent on nostalgia fiends. In the premiere at least, it’s simply looking to attract Beliebers.
One of the few fresh gimmicks for “Punk’d” 2.0 is that the show is no longer exclusively hosted by Ashton Kutcher. The “Two and a Half Men” star is still on board as an executive producer but a rotating slate of celebrities are set to front the pranks as “Saturday Night Live”-style guest hosts. The premiere delivered the biggest gun in the arsenal: Justin Bieber, who proved positively giddy at the prospect of punking his pals Taylor Swift, Sean Kingston and Miley Cyrus.
That’s a lot of star power for a half hour of television, but the result didn’t exactly feel shiny and new. Bieber’s fans no doubt delighted in soundbites like “I think people know that I’m a prankster, I think pranking people is probably one of my favorite hobbies!” and “I’m unpunkable!”
But the actual pranks were all standard issue. Biebs invited Taylor Swift to a Malibu beach house for a songwriting session and cons her into setting off fireworks that appear to cause a nearby boat — which happens to be hosting a wedding — to catch fire.
At least Swift comes off like a take charge girl. First she freaks out that everyone is going to die, but then composes herself enough to demand they call the police and the coast guard. She even calms down the actor playing the nervous groom who acts all distraught when his fake bride-to-be claims she sees this as a sign they shouldn’t get married. When Bieber reveals the truth — “you just got Punk’d!” — Swift responds with an incredulous “So, we’re not writing!?”
Beyond the appeal of two young music superstars, there’s nothing particularly clever or funny about the segment but it does contain one amusing nugget of information: When Bieber first places a call to Swift to invite her to the beach house, the first thing she says is “You change your number more than anyone I know!”
Things get a little more interesting when Bieber targets Fantasy Factory owner (and MTV personality) Rob Dyrdek. Being on MTV himself, he immediately senses something is up and forces the “Punk’d” team to change plans and go after Sean Kingston instead, with Dyrdek now in on the act.
One of the reasons “Punk’d” lost steam initially is that it became too difficult to actually punk celebrities without them figuring out what was going down. And the new edition seems to address that problem up front by including Dyrdek’s deduction (“The lighting’s too good!” he observes about his set-up) and then flipping the scenario to a more gullible celebrity (sorry Sean).
Even more gullible, Miley Cyrus’ brief segment was dubbed a “Switcheroo.” The producers made her think she was in charge of punking Bieber, but really he was in control. So when he started wailing on a crew of fake skateboarders, Cyrus was shocked (shocked!). But it was really just an excuse for the goofy spectacle of Bieber acting like a punk while hosting “Punk’d” and punking Miley Cyrus who thinks she’s punking him.
Frankly, after just one episode, I’m all “Punk’d” out.
“Punk’d” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on MTV.