Punk’d Returns with a Rotating Cast of Celebrity Pranksters

Punk'd returns to MTV, with different celebrities taking up the reins for Ashton Kutcher. First up to bat: Justin Bieber

Credit: MTV Canada

Justin Bieber takes over hosting duties for the premiere episode of Punk’d, where he pranks his friend Taylor Swift

Punk’d returns with celebrity hosts and Justin Bieber headlines the premiere episode

One of the biggest hits in the early days of television was Allen Funt’s Candid Camera, which boasted a deceptively simple concept: A hidden camera captured the spontaneous — and usually hilarious — reactions of average folks who stumbled into contrived, ridiculous situations. 

Like a virus that keeps mutating, the Candid Camera format just refuses to die; like TV’s cockroach, this indestructible concept keeps coming back in new incarnations with slight variations, such as this season’s Betty White’s Off Their Rockers and Howie Mandel’s Mobbed

A few years back, Ashton Kutcher and producing partner Jason Goldberg came up with the idea of adding a celebrity twist to the Candid Camera concept by playing pranks on their famous friends and covertly filming the shenanigans. The result was Punk’d, a wildly successful series that ran for eight seasons and became part of the pop-culture lexicon.

MTV is hoping to recapture the magic by rebooting the show and shaking up the format. Instead of Kutcher, each episode will feature a different young celebrity playing pranks on other young celebrities. The pranksters will include Hannah Montana’s Miley Cyrus, Twilight vampire Kellan Lutz, former Heroes star Hayden Panettiere, Jackass madman Bam Margera and Brotherhood’s Dax Shepard, who got his start as Kutcher’s go-to prankster in the earlier version of Punk’d.

Prankees include Khloe Kardashian Odom, Teen Wolf’s Tyler Posey and Disney Channel star Demi Lovato. For the season premiere, MTV is bringing out the biggest gun in its arsenal: Justin Bieber, who pulls an elaborate practical joke on country star Taylor Swift.

The combination of Punk’d and Bieber is win-win for everyone involved. For the Canadian-born pop phenom, it’s an attempt to broaden his appeal beyond 11-year-old girls and hopefully extend his teen-idol fame before it hits its expiration date. For MTV, the ratings Bieber delivers should be massive, and could be instrumental in successfully relaunching this franchise. Meanwhile, Kutcher can just sit back and keep cashing the cheques.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.