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.
Editing Eliminated Potentially Dangerous Scenarios
Even with teams of lawyers at the ready, Punk'd sometimes got dangerous. In Serena Williams's episode, the tennis star drives a car at nearly 100 mph, chasing someone she thinks abducted two children. Rob Pinkston, who played a teenager in the episode, admitted that they "stretched" the boundaries of personal safety because he felt like his job was on the line:
"I had [Punk’d co-creators] Jason [Goldberg] and Ashton [Kutcher] in my ear during the bit, and they told us to keep going, as long as it was safe... I think we stretched the ‘safe’ part a bit...
Jon [Huck, the producer] wanted to save the sketch and escape Serena, and I wanted to keep my job – let alone survive the car chase!"
When the episode aired, the editing made it appear like Williams was told to drive to where the kids were taken – not that she was chasing down someone she thought was a criminal. Basically, what happened was rewritten after the fact.
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' Reactions Could Be Cut Entirely
Part of the reason why Punk'd was so great were the celebrity reactions. Unfortunately, too much of the time, a star's real reaction was left on the cutting room floor.
In Drake's episode, he thought was going to meet Vice President Joe Biden. Instead, the Punk'd crew faked an earthquake. Apparently, Drake jumped and curled up into the fetal position on his friend's lap. In the episode that aired, though, Drake is just shown looking scared. The extent of his fear was only revealed later when Ashton Kutcher shared the story.
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!"