Military missions for celebs ‘could not have been more realistic’
By LORI RACKL TV Criticemail@example.com August 12, 2012 6:15PM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu protests NBC's new reality show "Stars Earn Stripes" saying that military maneuvers are not athletic competition.
‘STARS EARN STRIPES’
Two-hour premiere 7 to 9 p.m. Monday on WMAQ-Channel 5, followed by episodes from 8 to 9 p.m. Mondays until the two-hour finale Sept. 3.
Updated: September 14, 2012 6:05AM
Just how tough is NBC’s new show, “Stars Earn Stripes,” where celebrities compete in challenges that mimic military missions?
It made undefeated world boxing champ Laila Ali cry.
Former NFL player Terry Crews almost drowned.
Four-time Iron Dog snowmobile race winner Todd Palin came home covered with bumps and bruises, prompting his wife, Sarah Palin, to declare it more brutal than politics.
“Stars Earn Stripes” is so tough, it even led to an unlikely casualty on another NBC show. “America’s Got Talent” judge Sharon Osbourne announced she’s quitting that gig, claiming the network discriminated against her son, Jack, by not casting him on “Stars Earn Stripes.” Jack Osbourne, 26, was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and told TMZ on Sunday, “The show is probably gonna suck anyway.”
Co-executive producer David Hurwitz (“Fear Factor”) told reporters that Osbourne didn’t make the final line-up of stars because “the rigors of the show were too intense for him.”
“The show is by far … one of the biggest, most dangerous, explosive shows that’s ever been put together,” said Hurwitz, whose producing partners include reality TV guru Mark Burnett and “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf.
It’s also ripe fodder for a drinking game: Take a swig every time the stars say they have “a new appreciation” for the military. You’ll need a big bottle.
Described as “an unapologetic thank you and love letter to men and women in uniform” (not to mention one heckuva recruitment ad), the program is hosted by retired Gen. Wesley Clark and Samantha Harris (“Dancing With the Stars”). It pairs eight celebs with special operatives from the U.S. Army Delta Force, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marines andpolice.
In addition to Ali, Crews and Palin, the star roster includes Superman actor Dean Cain, “The Biggest Loser” trainer Dolvett Quince, Olympic skier Picabo Street, WWE diva Eve Torres and ex-98 Degrees singer Nick Lachey, who jokes that “nothing prepares you for battle like a boy band.” At least I think he was joking.
Teams are stationed at a remote training facility where they face off in simulated military missions — plunging out of helicopters, shooting machine guns loaded with live ammo, rappelling down walls and blowing up a lot of stuff.
“Coming into this, I thought it was going to be the same old corny military show where they’ve got the obstacle courses and BB guns or little soft toy guns, water guns and whatnot,” said St. Louis native Grady Powell, a former Green Beret who now admits his initial assessment was way off base. “There’s explosions everywhere. There’s dirt in your eyes.”
Former SEAL Brent Gleeson added, “It could not have been more realistic. In real-world combat scenarios, you’re given a mission brief. You have some of the information — not all of the information — just like on the show. You have some time to train but not enough. And just like in real life … things change, whether it’s a man going down or a weapon jamming or the target not being exactly like you had planned.”
Things got a little too realistic for Crews.
“I’m 5 percent body fat; well, that don’t work swimming … especially when you put 70 pounds of equipment on,” said Crews, a Michigan native who dove into acting after hanging up his football helmet.
Crews said his body simply gave up while he was in the water. One of the special ops had to pull him to safety.
“If this was a real live operation, I would have died,” Crews said. “It gave me a whole new appreciation for what our armed forces do for us.”
And that’s what convinced a former presidential hopeful and four-star general to join the ranks of reality TV hosts.
“The purpose of it was to really showcase and honor our men and women in uniform,” the Chicago-born Clark said. “Everybody says the armed forces is one of the great institutions of America. But so many young Americans don’t have any direct connection to it. And this show, through reality TV — which is what young people watch and identify with — makes that connection.”
Todd Palin, whose family is becoming as much of a fixture on reality TV as the Kardashians, said he did the show for similar reasons — and for charity. Winning contestants get stripes that translate into donations for various veteran and first-responder non-profits.
For Palin’s son Track, military challenges are the stuff of reality, not reality TV. Track, who enlisted in the U.S. Army, is deployed in Afghanistan.
What did he think about his dad playing soldier?
“He’s always up for a good laugh,” Palin said, “so he encouraged me to do it.”
A good cry was what Laila Ali ended up having during one of the challenges. Muhammad Ali’s pugilistic progeny turned on the waterworks when she had to rappel down a steep wall.
“I didn’t even expect that I was going to get as scared as I did,” Ali said. “I don’t like to put my life in other people’s hands. I started thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’ That’s when the tears started pouring.”
Crews agreed that some of the toughest missions weren’t physical as much as mental.
“You’re on the edge of that helicopter about to jump,” he said. “Everything in your body and in your mind says don’t do it. You have to beat that.
“I’m totally changed,” he added. “From the moment I started the show to the last day, I am a different person.”
A different person with a new appreciation for the armed forces.