‘Pranked’ is another MTV lowlight
I keep waiting for MTV to find a new thing. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the network could come up with an original type of show that fits into a rock or hip-hop sensibility but that isn’t reality-based? MTV has lost its creative wherewithal in a pile of “The Hills,’’ “Bully Beatdown,’’ and “Is She Really Going Out With Him?,’’ and anyone under 20 probably doesn’t know that MTV even had some creative wherewithal during its first two decades.
No one is going to find the much-needed spark of inspiration in MTV’s “Pranked,’’ which premieres tonight at 10:30. The show joins three series - “Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory’’ at 9, “Bully Beatdown’’ at 9:30, and “Nitro Circus’’ at 10 - to form a Thursday night block of Dudes ’n’ Stunts TV meant to draw a young audience of guys weaned on “Jackass.’’ The show is yet another iteration of “Candid Camera,’’ as people fool other people while on video. This isn’t TV that speaks to what is unique about a generation, so much as it feeds stale candy to bored kids.
“Pranked’’ has a viral flavor to it. Hosted by the bantering duo of Amir Blumenfeld and Streeter Seidell of Collegehumor.com, it is a collection of low-fi videos with a strong slapstick element. One guy tricks another into cracking an egg in his mouth; an unaware guy is thrown onto the floor when an airbag explodes under his couch cushion; and roommates secretly butter tile floors to keep each other slipping and sliding. The pranks aren’t particularly clever or choreographed, as they were on MTV’s “Punk’d.’’ This is all strictly d’oh! material.
In a pair of clips, a guy recently back from doing a tour of duty in Iraq is terrorized. Napping on the couch, he is stunned awake by his girlfriend with an obnoxious siren-making toy. Who knew post-traumatic stress could be so funny, so romantic? Also kind of hard to enjoy: a clip in which a cat is fooled into approaching a TV set, then scared out of his wits. The cat’s owner proudly explains that cats, so snobby, deserve to be humiliated every now and then. And so do faux ironic cat owners, I’m thinking.
MTV recently announced that it’s remaking a scripted British teen drama called “Skins,’’ which is an appealingly adventurous idea. Like the raunchy British version, the MTV “Skins’’ will be written by and star unknown kids. Maybe something compelling will come of it? Until then, though, MTV is continuing to prank anyone who is hoping to stumble across something even slightly ambitious.