×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

2 ways the Punk'd revival is the same and 2 ways it's different from the original

This content was paid for by Quibi and created by Looper.

The original run of Punk'd, the practical joke reality TV series and a pop culture touchstone of the mid-aughts, left MTV and our lives in 2007. In today's meme-saturated culture, it's difficult for any one thing to leave an indelible stamp on the populace at large for an extended period of time, but Punk'd did that so thoroughly, it became an immediately-understood verb sometimes utilized even by politicians. The Ashton Kutcher-helmed candid prank show is fixed firmly in the memories of every millennial and borderline Gen X kid — who can forget Justin Timberlake sat upon his stoop, staring into the void believing he was going to be arrested for tax fraud? 

Quibi is seeking to give us all that joyous schadenfreude once again, reviving Punk'd for streaming on the platform. It's keeping the name, is still credited to MTV, and will feature over-the-top pranking nonsense, but there are a few changes coming for the new decade. There's a whole new generation of celebrities out there to pull pranks on, and some of those featured on Quibi's version are YouTubers, which wasn't even close to the kind of celebrity platform back in the day that it is now. 

Let's get into what will be familiar and what will be fresh about these new episodes of Punk'd hijinks.

Difference: Quibi's Punk'd revival has a new host

If you've seen some of the promotional materials for Quibi's Punk'd, you'll have noticed Chance the Rapper is the new king of televised practical jokes. This is far and away the biggest difference between the revival and the original. 

Ashton Kutcher was defined for a time by his Punk'd host status, certainly on balance with his role as Michael Kelso on That '70s Show. When Chance the Rapper was announced as the new host, his excitement was palpable in his statement that accompanied the news: "Punk'd is one of MTV's most iconic franchises. I grew up watching this show, and it's surreal to be in the driver's seat this time around on Quibi" (via The Hollywood Reporter). Kutcher, who has producer credit on the original version of Punk'd, isn't involved with the revival, though he offered a kind of blessing by tweeting that he hopes "they get it right."

Punk'd has seen previous, short-lived attempts at revival, and it seems one innovation from those attempts will hold over into this one: more focus on the behind-the-scenes work to put the prank together and keep it running, which was part of the BET version in 2015. You'll see quite a bit of Chance in the control room this time around.

Quibi's Punk'd revival also might come off a little more gently than its predecessor. That's intentional, according to Chance, who told The Los Angeles Times that he chose people he knows personally for this first season's foray of pranking: "I love the Rock, and I wanted to [prank] the Rock so bad. But he's gigantic. He could do great, great bodily harm to me." Maybe next year.

Similarity: The new Punk'd on Quibi still utilizes a man on the inside

Part of the trick in getting away with large-scale, televised pranking is putting extra effort into at least initial believability. The original Punk'd ran into this problem over the long term due to both the show and its host's increasingly high profile; at a certain point, it became less and less believable for celebrities that unfortunate things were happening to them, and more plausible that they were being Punk'd

Original host Ashton Kutcher — and the hosts of MTV's two Punk'd revivals from 2012 and 2015 — would often enlist the help of someone close to the target, like a friend or partner, to pull the prank off without raising red flags. Quibi's version does much the same. 

Some of the pranks in the revival are centered on celebrities' homes, cars, and, in one case, a beloved pet; you can't just get the keys to those all that easily, hence the need to utilize someone on the inside of the target's life. Including stuff so personal also makes for the perfect distraction for the target of the prank. Logic flies right out the window when their car appears to have a wrecking ball dropped on it, no matter how bonkers the actors on-scene get to ratchet up the farce. 

We especially feel the need to give a big shout out to Matt (who was also on some original episodes of Punk'd), frequent frontman on the Quibi version who drops some of the funniest one-liners to the baffled responses of the prank target while the Manchurian Candidate helping production tries not to ruin the ruse for laughing.

Difference: Quibi's Punk'd revival has a shorter runtime than the original

For those not in the know, Quibi's entire format is based on producing episodes in "quick bites," which means runtimes between five and ten minutes. Most of the new Punk'd episodes clock in at about six minutes apiece. 

That might not seem like much time, but consider this: The original Punk'd was a typical 23-ish minute show when factoring out several minutes of commercials per episode, and usually featured two different celebrities being pranked. That works out to at a little over ten minutes per prank. Frankly, even a minute too long on practical jokes like the ones Punk'd pulls can quickly turn into awkward suffering. The micro-format of Quibi's Punk'd keeps episodes tight and to-the-point without the potential for a laugh lost. Candid comedy, much like sketch comedy, blooms best in fast-paced environments and is better off quitting sooner rather than later for maximum effect. You'll be surprised just how much fits into that small window, and how snappy it is for it. Punk'd and the also-revived Reno 911! have found pretty ideal homes for their particular styles.

Similarity: Celebrities are still getting Punk'd on Quibi's revival

Most modern prank shows sprung from Candid Camera, with its hidden camera format creating havoc for the general populace to react to for our entertainment. Punk'd took the idea to a whole new level by putting a specific subset of celebrities under the spotlight: Musicians and actors most recognized by teens of the era and the emerging profession of reality television personalities. The Punk'd will do much the same in poking fun at the lifestyles of the nouveau riche and famous rather than the random passersby on the street. At the same time, what qualifies for that kind of celebrity has changed a lot in the decade-plus since the OG Punk'd left the air. 

The teeny-boppers, Paris Hiltons, and college-age-stoner-movie talent of mid-aughts MTV this is not; Quibi's Punk'd pulls stunts on 20-something YouTubers, Migos and Megan Thee Stallion, and actors and actress whom teens these days "stan." The concept is the same, but the flavor is new — all in the name of being hashtag relatable. Some of the personalities chosen to appear on the new Punk'd would have been in elementary school when Ashton Kutcher took his final bow on MTV, so make of that fact what you will and settle in to enjoy a new generation of silliness.