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MTV loads up with ‘Punk’d’

Cabler auds skein for 3 more seasons

MTV has greenlit an additional three seasons’ worth of “Punk’d.”

Cabler has ordered a total of 24 episodes of the hidden-camera half-hour from Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg’s Katalyst Films.

After its first three seasons, half-hour remains one of MTV’s top-rated originals in its core 12- to 34-year-old demo.

Skein revolves around a group of undercover pranksters playing tricks on unsuspecting celebs; those fooled have included Katie Holmes, Tyra Banks and Justin Timberlake.

Kutcher is on board to continue hosting most of the 24 episodes. Though the exact number of segs is unclear, order signals MTV’s commitment to stick with the skein with or without Kutcher’s on-air presence.

” ‘Punk’d’ is over,” he quipped. “We had a great ride at MTV.”

Kutcher punk’d auds into thinking he had scrapped plans for a third season last winter, citing savvier celebrities and increased difficulty pulling the show off.

Insiders said that was a ploy to lull celebs back into their unwary ways — he brought the show back in April.

The strategy seems to have paid off: Latest season of “Punk’d” drew its highest-ever auds — an average of 3.2 million total viewers per episode, 1.9 million in 18-49 — edging its stellar first-season numbers.

In addition, the first season of “Punk’d” has sold well on DVD; second season will be released Oct. 12.

Fresh episodes are slated to rejoin MTV’s Sunday Night Stew next year.

Upcoming cycle of Stew, a top draw for young males since its launch last fall, premieres Oct. 24 with eight episodes of “You’ve Got a Friend,” a new prank skein from Katalyst (Daily Variety, Sept. 17). Lineup also includes fresh cycles of testosterone-fueled series “Pimp My Ride” and “Viva la Bam.”

Katalyst, which is repped by Endeavor, Untitled and Offer, Weber & Dern, recently sealed a two-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. Shingle is working on a six-episode makeover/dating series for the WB and developing projects for ABC and Fox.

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