A sneaky 'Punk'd' block

Final season airs before it begins

MTV's celebrity prank show "Punk'd" is going out with a bang.

The cable network said Monday that the upcoming season will be the last for the show from co-creator/executive producers Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg. In a first for the network, MTV is planning to debut the entire final season -- all eight episodes -- back-to-back in a "Sneak Peek Marathon" starting at 1 p.m. April 7. The series then premieres at 9 p.m. April 10 as part of a new Tuesday night block that also will include "Scarred" at 9:30 p.m., "Real World/Road Rules Inferno" at 10 p.m. and "Living Lahaina" at 10:30 p.m.

"We decided to make an event out of it," said Brian Graden, president of entertainment at MTV Networks Music Group and president of Logo. "We're looking to experiment with many alternate programming and premiere models as a way for things to take hold in an age of technology."

This isn't the first time MTV has come up with an innovative way to air its programming. Just last week, for example, MTV2 said it was planning to release the entire upcoming season of "The Andy Milonakis Show" on Apple's iTunes a month before its first episode premieres on-air (HR 3/20).

Graden said it's not likely that most viewers will watch the entire "Punk'd" marathon but hopes it will generate buzz for the show and that a heavy dose of promotion during the marathon for the new Tuesday night block -- themed around "boys being naughty" -- will draw viewers to its premiere.

As for this being the last season, Kutcher has said before that he was ending "Punk'd." The show debuted in 2003, and in December of that year, after its second season, Kutcher said he was pulling the plug on the show. The announcement was met with speculation that it was a ploy to lower the guard of celebrity targets; indeed, "Punk'd" returned in April 2004. However, Graden said Monday that the show is officially finished this time but that there might be future collaborations with Kutcher on other projects.

As a tribute to the final season, Kutcher will host a special "Punk'd Awards" honoring all eight seasons at 9 p.m. June 5.

Unsuspecting celebrities who are getting "Punk'd" this season include Hilary Swank, Magic Johnson, Evangeline Lilly, Nelly Furtado and Hayden Panettiere.
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