- January 27
This past week on WLTI, I made the suggestion of an
Embowelling with the Stars / Bermuda Triangle with the
Stars double feature to get rid of the excess
celebrities that are clogging our television set. Now we
here at GSNN do not advocate the demise of any celebrity
(C-Level or otherwise), nor is it the celebrities fault
that we are annoyed at them (celebrities do need to eat
and find a way to make payments on their 6 cars and
their 4 ex-spouses), but a question has come up as of
late - how is it that certain celebrities and shows with
celebrities are lauded while others are vilified?
Unlike some of the other television trends, the
infatuation of celebrities is not a new thing. Weve
been watching celebrities play games on television
almost since television was created. Within the past 30
years or so, weve seen them play word games (Password,
Pyramid, Match Game, You Dont Say), answer trivia
questions (Hollywood Squares, Break the Bank, Celebrity
Sweepstakes), show their athletic side (Bowling Night,
Celebrity Fit Club), and show off their hidden talent
sometimes for the better (Dancing with the Stars) and
sometimes for the worse
MUCH worse (But Can They Sing?).
Anyone who thought that celebrity gaming was a fad that
was only good 20 years ago got a reality check when the
first edition of Celebrity Millionaire went on the air.
The record number of eyeballs that tuned in to see Rosie
ODonnell make it to $500,000 (and then Drew Carey
repeating that feat in a later episode) hit record
numbers, as the audience liked what they saw. That
opened the doors to celebrify everything once again,
some for the better (Poker Royale and Fear Factor) and
some for the worse (Im a Celebrity, Get Me Out of
The question still remains what makes a celebrity show
special and what makes it craptacular?
The obvious answer is to make sure that the celebrities
are well adapted for the show that they are going to be
on. Billy Crystal amazed people when he went up the
Pyramid in less than 30 seconds, while lesser known
stars (Henry Polic II, Florence Henderson, Markie Post)
made money hand over fist for their contestants both
Polic and Post lead people to the $100,000 grand prize,
while Henderson set a record by winning over $100,000 in
1 week of Pyramid. Richard Dawson made a completely new
career (and millions of dollars) for himself by being
far and away the best celebrity to ever play Match Game.
The celebrity genre, however, is a dual edged sword
morons who needed help getting up the second tier of
celebrity Millionaire also led to its demise, while the
lack of competent celebrities was one of the reasons why
the new Pyramid didnt last very long. Estelle Getty or
Paul Rodriguez, anyone?
Its not only limited to games of wit. Stacy Kiebler and
Drew Lachey are the powerhouses of Dancing with the
Stars this season and yes, they can indeed dance. The
fact that they have enough charisma to float Cleopatras
barge doesnt hurt either. Sure, they have Master P
along, but even as an anti-dancer role, the P-Meister is
holding his own as well. Most of them do have the talent
to pull it off unlike But Can They Sing, which none of
them could and which promptly left stage right after
numerous train wrecks.
What about Skating with Celebrities? Unfortunately,
skating is a sport that you cant mask a lot of you
either can do it or you cant. Whereas DWTS does feature
ways to hide deficiencies, there is no such thing in
skating, and the celebrities were exposed in a painful
way this past Monday. As much as it would have been fun
to get people with no talent to compete, the fact is
that you need people with experience in skating to be in
that level of a show, or it looks awful.
Conversely, on King of Vegas, the celebrities like
Mike Matusow. David Williams and Evelyn Ng, have two
things going for them not only are they well read in
almost every poker game, but their personalities are
very polarizing and make them fun to root for (or in
Matusows case, root against). On the Poker trail, you
have people like James Woods and Lance Bass who clearly
know how to play, which makes it fun. And with wins by
Joe Reitman and Jennifer Tilly in the pro poker circuit,
its getting evident that the line between being a
celebrity poker player and playing good poker is getting
blurrier and blurrier.
You also need people who WANT to be there. Theres not
much talent on Fear Factor, but the people who do
compete all want to be there not only is there $50,000
at stake, but if you turn chicken, youll be leaving
very quickly and you get a mouthful from Joe Rogan as
you walk down the path of shame. That alone makes good
television, regardless of which celebrity is getting
In Celebrity Fit Club, all of the celebrities know
whats going to happen to them as they walk in the door.
The fun is what happens when they get there. The people
with the best success stories (Judge Mablean Ephriam,
Phil Margera, Gary Busey, Jackee Harry) have been the
ones who are the most at ease, open with the camera and
the audience, and are clearly there to lose weight and
work, while the biggest disasters (Daniel Baldwin,
Willie Aames, Jeff Conaway) have been the ones who have
tried to avoid the camera or interaction, and have just
looked like they wanted to collect the paycheck and get
out of there. I dont think that its a coincidence. You
will only get 100% satisfaction if you put 100% of
yourself into it and that also makes or breaks a show.
You need people who not only are a good fit on the show,
but you need them to want to be there in the first
place. Its sort of an equilibrium-like dynamic the
show needs the talent of the star to work, while the
star needs to work the show as well. With that sort of
criteria, there will be enough success so that we do not
need an Embowelling with the Stars special, though if we
do want to see the celebrities get filleted, there's
always hope that they can be cast in a remake of Battle
Gordon Pepper is a one-man cult of personality.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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