- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

‘Punk’d’ extension

Celebrities won’t be able to rest easy for the foreseeable future.

MTV is reupping its spin on “Candid Camera,” “Punk’d,” for another three years, Associated Press reports.

The show, hosted by Ashton Kutcher, springs hidden camera pranks on the rich and famous.

The first new episodes of the new season will air early next year.

In the past, Mr. Kutcher has been secretive and contradictory about the show’s future, perhaps with the idea of keeping celebrities unsuspecting. (Nick Lachey thought his wife, Jessica Simpson, had allowed her hillbilly relatives to move their trailer onto his mansion estate, and Justin Timberlake was moved to panic when he thought all his belongings had been seized because he owed $900,000 in back taxes.)

In January, Mr. Kutcher said, “Let’s put it this way. I’m getting ready to start shooting two movies, I’m still working on ‘That ‘70s Show,’ I’m producing two other shows for MTV and creating a one-hour drama pilot for Fox… I don’t have the time.”

That’s not to mention the hours required to take main squeeze Demi Moore out for an ice cream sundae or two.

Mr. Kutcher’s show returned to the airwaves a few weeks after that pronouncement.

Exposed Conan

“Late Night” talker Conan O’Brien is curious about moving to a time slot when “people can see me,” that is, the coveted 11:35 p.m. spot.

The red-haired comic will get his chance some day — give or take five years — when Jay Leno’s announced retirement kicks in.

NBC’s move, given Mr. Leno’s stamp of approval, keeps Mr. O’Brien in the NBC camp for the time being, Associated Press reports.

“My parents have no idea what I do for a living,” Mr. O’Brien joked Saturday night about his late, late gig. “They think I’m still in law school.”

Mr. O’Brien, who spoke at the New Yorker Festival last Saturday, says he would likely leave New York, where his “Late Night” show is based, for Los Angeles, home of “Tonight.”

The 41-year-old twice served as editor of the Harvard Lampoon, worked as a writer on “Saturday Night Live” for 3 years and was the supervising producer of “The Simpsons.”

He debuted on “Late Night” to chilly reviews in September 1993 after David Letterman moved to CBS for an earlier time slot when he was passed over for the “Tonight Show” job.

Given time to grow, the comic did just that, earning a respectable audience and the approval of most TV critics. His show reaches 2.5 million viewers a night.

Mr. O’Brien will become the fifth host of the 50-year-old “Tonight Show,” following Mr. Leno, Johnny Carson, Jack Paar and Steve Allen. Mr. Leno has been the show’s host since 1992.

‘S.W.A.T.’ scribe tapped

Feature-film writer David McKenna, whose credits include the 2003 hit “S.W.A.T.,” will pen the pilot script for a new drama from Jerry Bruckheimer Television, Reuters News Agency reports.

The upcoming “E-Ring” is a defense-themed drama described as “The West Wing” set in the Pentagon.

Mr. McKenna will co-create the series with Ken Robinson, a former Army Green Beret who now serves as a terrorism and military intelligence consultant for CNN.

Mr. Robinson will serve as a producer on the series, which has a hefty commitment from NBC.

Mr. McKenna first made his mark in features with the script for 1998’s “American History X.” Besides last year’s big-screen adaptation of the “S.W.A.T.” television show, his credits include the 2001 Ted Demme-directed drama “Blow” and the 2000 remake of “Get Carter” starring Sylvester Stallone.

May blasts ‘Comic’

Comedian Ralphie May isn’t laughing about being booted off “Last Comic Standing.”

“The whole show is a joke,” he told Associated Press recently. “The viewership’s gone down the hill, and the show has jumped the shark.”

The portly comedian, who finished second during the first season and was voted off season three’s competition last Tuesday, says the talent contest hosted and produced by comedian Jay Mohr is past its prime.

Mr. May’s material, a boisterous brand of hip-hop flavored, un-PC gags, got a boost from his earlier appearance on the show. He leveraged his new fame to help others, as well, performing for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the United Service Organization Tour.

Season three has featured comics from the first two seasons, and Mr. May says, “The only one on there that’s doing real comedy is Alonzo Bodden.”

Mr. May, seemingly a purist, says comedy isn’t always about getting the laughs, it’s about pushing the boundaries and moving stand-up forward.

“That’s why I don’t have respect for audiences that laugh at ‘Remember when you were a kid?’ jokes. … Let’s move on, let’s try something new,” he says.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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