We’re one Wednesday away from American Idol, which means Fox has a two-hour window of primetime television to fill. The safe play would be for the network to devote the time to some of its freshman programming that could use a little help (Ben and Kate, for example) , but instead, the powers that be have decided to move forward with the latest in a long line of reality television series and specials featuring celebrities trying to learn how to moderately succeed at a random activity.
The most famous of these celebrity challenges is, of course, Dancing With The Stars, but beyond that raging success, that are quite a few largely forgotten programs or television specials that tried to capture the same magic and couldn’t quite get there. For all we know, tonight’s Stars In Danger: The High Dive might be just as fascinating, highly rated and wonderful as DWTS, but more than likely, it’ll be a moderately-rated to low-rated mess.
Here’s a trip down memory lane featuring five reality television shows that featured celebrities trying and failing to master random activities.
Fox’s Skating With Celebrities (2006)
Featuring six celebrities, plenty of famous Olympic ice skaters and host Summer Sanders, Skating With Celebrities was supposed to be Fox’s answer to the highly successful Dancing With The Stars. Unfortunately, Americans are just a whole lot less invested in ice skating, and the ratings weren’t even in the same ballpark. After only seven episodes, the reality competition program was given the heave-ho, leaving behind some marginally interesting skating footage and one wrecked marriage.
That’s right. During the show’s run, actress Kristy Swanson and figure skater Lloyd Eisler began getting busy despite the fact that he had a pregnant wife back home. Not long after, Kristy got pregnant with his baby, and Lloyd and his wife divorced eight months later. Without question, it was the illicit affair was the most interesting thing about the show, which may have played well to the Jersey Shore demographic but wasn’t exactly endearing to figure skating fans.
In case there was any question as to whether Americans would ever get on board with celebrities ice skating, the “no” was officially solidified in 2010 when ABC tried and failed with its reality show Skating With Stars.
NBC’s Stars Earn Stripes (2012)
Celebrities paying homage to the troops by competing in challenges that will illustrated what servicemen and women go through on a daily basis? How could that possibly go wrong? As it turns out, it could apparently go wrong in a lot of ways. Just two days before filming was set to begin, Jack Osbourne and the show went their separate ways. The producers claimed he was never officially signed on, but Jack’s mother Sharon, a panelist on America’s Got Talent said he was removed after he was diagnosed with M.S. Whether that really happened or not, Sharon is still mad as hell about it and has even threatened to quit AGT.
Beyond Sharon, Stars Earn Stripes also pissed off plenty of Americans and eight Nobel Peace Laureates who thought the program was glorifying militarized violence. The latter group begged NBC to pull the show, which, given the ratings, they might as well have done. The first episode premiered to a manageable 5.24 million viewers, but each subsequent installment bled off more of its audience, ultimately failing to top 3 million for its final double episode.
From the confusing name to the unfortunate Osbourne situation, Stars Earn Stripes was basically a mess from the opening whistle. Thank God nothing about this show was actually needed to protect our freedoms.
NBC’s Celebrity Circus (2008)
The problem with Celebrity Circus is that it was too much of a novelty on paper. Before it even aired, it had viewers wondering if this was the lowest reality television had ever sunk. It’s one thing to be a bit of a curiosity like Dancing With The Stars, it’s quite another to seem like a vehicle intentionally designed to embarrass people. In actuality, the show didn’t embarrass anyone. Those involved clearly took learning various jobs perfected by circus performers very seriously, but there was just no way to get over the initial perception.
Celebrity Circus only lasted six episodes before it crowned Antonio Sabato Jr its champion. Humorously, the former soap opera star will also be seen on Stars In Danger. Given his athleticism, he may actually be one of the frontrunners too. For his sake, however, I hope more people watch the new entry than Celebrity Circus, which was cancelled not long after it finished out its episode order.
With an eclectic cast including Rachel Hunter, Wee Man and Stacey Dash, Celebrity Circus definitely isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but I highly doubt anyone not involved in the show lost any sleep over its cancellation.
CMT’s Gone Country (2008-2009)
Far and away the most entertaining show on this list, Gone Country brought together odd collections of musicians and musical celebrities and taught them how to both sing country music and live a country lifestyle. Celebrity Apprentice winner John Rich occupied the hosting duties, and thanks to the quality of the premise and solidness of the execution, the program actually got three seasons and a spin-off.
Season One contestants Bobby Brown, Maureen McCormick and Carnie Wilson got along so well and were such a hit with fans that they shot a reality show together about opening up a bed and breakfast called Outsider’s Inn. That program was far less successful, but obviously, that’s no fault of Gone Country.
The main reason why Gone Country worked is because its subject matter is easy to understand and grasp. Many musicians go country in order to kickstart slumping careers. Thus, playing into the concept is simple, and since everyone involved has musical talent, it actually made sense that they would be there.
Fox and E!’s The Simple Life (2003-2007)
The Simple Life may have gotten old after the first few seasons, but it was actually a wonderful play on Green Acres at the beginning. It took two women, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, who weren’t exactly comfortable or knowledgeable about manual labor and put them to work on a farm in Arkansas to teach them how to be real human beings. Viewership was overwhelming during the first season especially, causing Fox to actually add more episodes in order to fill the demand.
Eventually, Paris and Nicole got so furious with each other that they stopped speaking and Fox decided to cancel their program entirely. E! quickly picked it up, and the final two seasons of the show ran on cable. Many of the programs on this list have been accused of copying Dancing With The Stars, but in some ways, many are copying The Simple Life too. Nicole and Paris proved the fish out of water concept could work very well with the right celebrities and the right activity. To this day, producers are still actively trying to find that magic formula, and some of that is thanks to Paris and Nicole.
Was the Simple Life awesome? No. But was it important? Certainly more so than the rest of these shows.
Can you think of any other reality shows featuring celebrities that were designed to teach them a new activity? If so, let us know about your favorites or least favorites in the comment section.