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PUNK'D
The Complete Second Season

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Ashton Kutcher
Creators: Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 156 Minutes
Release Date: October 12, 2004

"What we're gonna do is basically shoot a large action movie…IN REAL LIFE."

Shows ****

You gotta give credit to Ashton Kutcher and his team of fellow pranksters. Ashton still managed to get even more celebrity targets fooled. Enough celebrities, that is, to bring the show back for an even more hilarious and exciting second season.

The lone fact that the phrase "You've just been punk'd" has worked its way into our pop culture is further evidence that Punk'd has gone on to become one of cable TV's most popular shows. Without a doubt, it's the most popular hidden camera series since Candid Camera.

Think about that for a second. The show was already a hit from minute one, various celebrities who had yet to get punk'd must have been told to be on the lookout for such hysterics. Not only was Ashton successful in pulling off such elaborate pranks, but he managed to take the level of punk-ing even farther than in the first season, where fooling such people as Justin Timberlake, Seth Green and Stephen Dorff seemed virtually unsurpassable.

Once again, the success of Punk'd is not only attributed to the superbly outlandish stunts that Ashton and his "field agents" manage to get away with. The show would not be what it is if Ashton Kutcher wasn't the host. His energetic and purely wacky persona displayed in the narrating segments of each episode blends downright perfectly with the show itself.

Ashton opens up the season by exclaiming by stating, "We've got quite an exciting season in store, because I have a lot of penned up aggression. And I'm going to take it out on YOU!" Kutcher is cleverly referring to the fact that during the previous summer, he became hot front page news due to his high profile romance with Demi Moore. How Ashton is able to sneak around areas and pull off pranks while being a newsworthy target in the process is an accomplishment in itself, unless of course the whole Demi fling eventually turns out to be a punk on the public, which would also be another accomplishment.

Anyway…onto Season 2. How does it compare to the innovative first season? Not only does it measure up to it, but it may as well have surpassed it. Ashton and his team go after many more various targets within the entertainment field, ranging from actors to musicians. This time around, many of the targets are of a younger age range, which makes sense since the industry has recently been dominated by those under the age of 18.

Case in point, young acting and singing sensation Hilary Duff, one of the targets in the season premiere. Ms. Duff is about to get her driver's license, or so she thinks, as she is about to endure the most nightmarish driving test anyone has had to endure. Her driving instructor, one of Ashton's field agents, manages to pick a tense argument with a fellow driver on the L.A. freeway.

After the driving instructor douses the other car with a beverage and takes a baseball bat to a headlight, he instructs Hilary to speed off. Ms. Duff, who doesn't even has a license yet, fears that she has done something completely illegal. Just moments later, their driving school car is confronted with the same driver, who chases off the instructor, while an accomplice threatens Hilary with a carjacking. Ashton, meanwhile is monitoring everything in a nearby fan, and laughing away at every wrong turn.

And Ashton has got even more punk-ees on his radar. The season's targets include pop music star Usher being told his younger brother has been caught shoplifting in a women's department store, actress Katie Holmes caught right in the middle of a bitter argument between Charlie's Angels director McG and his suspecting fiancée during an interview, R&B starlet Mya experience a most bizarre date, comedian Tracy Morgan doing his best to prevent his car from being repossessed, and former Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, thinking he's about to help out in punking ex Motley Crue alum Tommy Lee. Carter manages to let himself get punk'd while on the set of the show.

Among my personal favorite bits; there's a lengthy prank involving actress Jaime Pressly, who's about to give an interview about her new clothing line. She's then shocked beyond belief to be confronted by the FBI, who inform her that one of her factories has been enforcing child labor. Poor Jaime displays the largest set of tears of any targets this season. Another involves BMX stunt rider Dave Mirra, who's confronted by agents who tell him that his representatives have taken money on his behalf for endorsements he hasn't shown up for.

But none of pranks pulled on any season can measure up to movie-scale punk pulled on hip hop's top group, Outkast. This prank came off as the most believable, simply because Ashton and his crew were able to acquire everything from firetrucks to a circling helicopter to help make this prank look like anything but a prank. The prank: Ashton hijacks Outkast's rented car, a Mercedes MiBoch--which registers at around $375,000. The car is placed in a downtown setting, where it appears to have crashed into a store window. What follows is utter hilarity and chaotic confusion as only Punk'd can provide.

With a third season already in the bag, and a reported fourth season on the way, Punk'd shows no sign of slowing down, which in my opinion is a very good thing. Few TV shows have the ability to make me laugh as hard as I can. Only two shows, in fact, have such an effect on me. One is fellow MTV show Viva La Bam and the other is Punk'd, perhaps the best thing to happen to reality TV, though it's too funny and clever to rank amongst such a disposable genre.

One message to Ashton Kutcher; keep on punk-ing!

Video ***

For a full screen treatment of a show whose visuals are mostly that of hidden cameras, I must confess that this season of Punk'd wasn't as flawed as you'd probably believe. The video treatment surpasses the first season, maybe because the touch ups on the footage seen through the remote cameras was simply better handled this time around. Colors are also given a much bolder touch in this presentation, as well.

Audio ***

The 2.0 channel mix provides some most impressive sound quality, and the kind you wouldn't expect from a TV show with an alleged limited range. Music is delivered wonderfully, as are spoken words--including those being picked up by the hidden cameras. Sound effects which enhance the effect of the show are indeed the strongest point of the presentation.

Features ***1/2

No joke--Paramount's double disc package includes some seriously nice and kickin' extras. There's a hugely funny commentary track, running on all episodes, with Ashton Kutcher, series co-creator Jason Goldberg and field agents Steve Rannazzisi and Ahmed Ahmed. Also featured are a number of deleted scenes, two never before aired Punk'd segments, a Punk Your Friend option, and a behind the scenes look at what went into the making of the Outkast segment, which is definitely worth a look at.

Summary:

In the first season, Punk'd broke all the rules and in season two, it took the level of high profile celebrity pranking even further. The show remains an edgy and worthy exception of the reality TV market, and this Second Season DVD package is utter proof of it!

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