Ashton Kutcher’s Terrifying Prank TV Show Before ‘Punk’d’ Ended In a $20 Million Lawsuit

It may seem, nowadays, like the MTV prank show Punk’d was a long time ago, even if already taking from the long-running TV practical joke format of Candid Camera. At the helm of the former was Ashton Kutcher who seems like a polar opposite individual today from what he was 20 years ago.

Back in the early 2000s, he was riding high with Punk’d, if usually straddling the line of what was acceptable in a celebrity prank. Somehow, execs around the MTV meeting tables agreed to a pitch from his production team to put together a similar show, except with real people.

This show would be called Harassment, a title nobody could get away with today.

The horrible prank on ‘Harassment’ that went very wrong

Ashton Kutcher
Ashton Kutcher | Michael Kovac/Getty Images for WeWork

Perhaps giving too much power to someone like Kutcher at the time was a bit misguided. Green-lighting a prank involving a dead body (a fake one, that is) for an unsuspecting real couple to discover was a bit over the edge.

The plan was to have a fake cadaver placed into a Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel room where a random couple would discover it in a bed. Making this worse was the prank would involve using fake blood to depict a murder.

Kutcher somehow got Hard Rock Hotel’s approval to do this stunt. When a couple went into their room and discovered the body, they clearly freaked out. With the hotel in on the gag, they refused to let the couple leave the room until the police arrived.

When Kutcher entered the room to let the couple know they were being … well, punk’d … they were none too pleased.

A lawsuit ensued by the offended couple

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Despite Kutcher’s best efforts to make the couple laugh off the prank, the emotional distress they experienced was a little too much.

The incident occurred in 2002, right at the height of Punk’d’s popularity. The couple involved were visiting from Washington, D.C. Their $20 million negligence lawsuit made headlines at the time, and it reportedly was prepared to go to trial, according to EW.

During this period, MTV scrambled to try to distance themselves from the legal fallout. Kutcher tried to as well, yet MTV stood by his Punk’d series indefinitely.

The series aired its final episode in 2004.

MTV argued the show ‘Punk’d and ‘Harassment’ were not related

In the above suit, it was alleged because Punk’d was similar to Harassment, it made Kutcher and MTV more culpable in the practical joke gone wrong. This complication may be why there never seemed to be any resolution to the lawsuit. What happened afterward is unknown.

With the legal repercussions hanging over Kutcher’s head, was this the reason he ended Punk’d so abruptly in 2004? We may never know.

Those wild times during Punk’d and the never-aired Harassment were from a different time when being complacent was far too easy. Nowadays, everyone knows a pitch like Harassment on any network would end up getting nixed in the first sentence.