Everyone who's ever watched an MTV reality TV show probably knows that some of that so-called "reality" is a little bit unreal. For every celebrity that totally lied on MTV's Cribs, there's a producer or two who faked a scene on Pimp My Ride. Reality TV lies are a dime a dozen – but then there was Punk'd.
Punk'd was arguably one of the realest reality shows on MTV. But when you consider all the ways reality TV is faked, how real could Punk'd really be? True, one of the ways MTV fakes reality TV is by scripting scenes, and that didn't exactly happen in this case. Instead, the series was molded by the lawyers who stepped in to control the outcomes of potentially risky situations. Basically, Punk'd was pranking in a controlled setting.
Even the actors weren't really being themselves. Producers had no qualms about cutting up their actual reactions and making it look like host Ashton Kutcher could not be beat. They hid their failures and pranks gone wrong. It may not be the fakest show, but many of the ways MTV's Punk'd is fake have to do with lying by omission.
The Show's Lawyers Could Stop Pranks At Any Time
You may have thought Ashton Kutcher personally orchestrated every prank on Punk'd. After all, he's depicted as being in the ears of the actors carrying out the dirty deeds. But, of course, Ashton wasn't in charge of whether or not a prank went too far. Instead, a team of lawyers provided on-site instruction about whether or not a prank should be stopped.
As Kutcher put it, "The primary responsibility of these lawyers was to ensure that at no point in time were we breaking any laws or endangering anyone, in any way."
Celebrities Tended To Figure Out The Pranks
Punk'd paints a picture of a show where celebrities are completely unaware they're being had. That wasn't the case, and their awareness of impending pranks sometimes threw off the show. For instance, Ashton Kutcher tried to punk Neve Campbell multiple times, but only succeeded on the third go. The band Simple Plan was apparently un-Punkable because they spotted the cameras.
Sometimes The Celebrities Recognized The Punk'd Actors
Of course celebrities occasionally recognized actors on Punk'd, as much as the show liked to pretend otherwise. The show had gotten way too popular to fly under the radar.
In Lil' Jon's episode, Ashton Kutcher used some repeat actors to play customs agents. Lil' Jon was at the airport headed to Las Vegas when these fake customs agents told him he was actually heading to Ecuador. The rapper recognized the actors and asked Kutcher to reveal himself, reportedly yelling, "Come on, you can't punk the motherf*cking King of Crunk!"
When Stars Got Mad, MTV Toned Down Their Reactions
Punk'd undoubtedly manipulated celebrity reactions in post, especially when it painted them in a negative light (what star would sign a release for that?). In Zach Braff's episode, the actor actually threw punches when he thought someone had painted graffiti on his brand new Porsche.
Rob Pinkston, who played the delinquent teenager, admitted that the star tried to beat him up as he ran towards fellow actor Chris Elwood, who was playing a security guard: "I felt the swings hit the jacket, which was terrifying."
Elwood vouched for Pinkston's story:
“Zach tried to pummel Rob, but instead pummeled my arm... He basically hit my arm as he was trying to hit this kid. He definitely wanted to stomp the ever-living crap out of this kid.”
MTV ended up cutting the punches out, and made it seem like Braff just yelled a bunch of profanities.