NBC's Stars Earn Stripes might be the bastard child of The Hunger Games, Idiocracy, and Tropic Thunder

NBC is taking advantage of its Olympics coverage by promoting its new fall and late summer shows. A particularly unnerving one is for a show called Stars Earn Stripes, a new reality/competition show hosted by former presidential candidate and Army general Wesley Clark that takes D-list celebrities and puts them through very realistic military exercises with real military personnel. Almost every single part of that sentence felt weird to type, but it gets even more uncomfortable when you realize that NBC was essentially plucking (or, rather, reaping) semi-famous people from their relative obscurity and making them engage in combat with each other -- not unlike The Hunger Games, which are not supposed to be real. And even though the contestants don't have to actually kill each other, the idea is to see who can perform on the same level as a soldier of the U.S. military by making them go through the same exercises as the actual U.S. military. The military is entertainment now. Entertainment is the military. Welcome to Idiocracy! It finally, actually happened.

(Should I mention how NBC is partly owned by GE, and GE has over a billion dollars in defense contracts? That's not weird, right?)

Now, it's obviously not the first time we've seen things that are military-inspired on television. Fitness boot camps are certainly nothing new, either. But taking a bunch of famous people (and Todd Palin) and putting them not through military pushups, but into actual tanks and combat scenarios with actual explosions is a whole new territory. And yes, it's all for charity and not their own personal honor or gain, but still. One line in the promo stresses that every episode features "real missions" with real military operatives and law enforcement professionals. The underlying message is supposed to show us how hard the military works for us, and how much we should appreciate their sacrifices.

And then Dean Cain of Lois and Clark fame tells a camera operator that he could totally die.

We are led to believe that all the contestants -- an eight-person lineup including Cain, Palin, Terry "President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho" Crews (which means this is definitely Idiocracy), Laila Ali, WWE Diva Eve Torres, The Biggest Loser trainer Dolvett Quince, Olympian Picabo Street, and Nick Lachey -- had no idea what they were getting into, which puts them in a place somewhere between the actors in Tropic Thunder and the teenage tributes in The Hunger Games. (Because something tells me they probably had a little bit of an idea.) And through their real-fake military travails, they learn what it really means to be a soldier.

I have news for them: They will never know what it's like to be a soldier. Soldiers volunteer themselves for service, and they don't do it to be on television. They go into combat not knowing if they'll come out of it alive or with all of their limbs, and sometimes, they don't. And if they do, they are then faced with the effects of PTSD. And I don't think NBC will be putting Todd Palin through that. I mean, my god, look who he's married to. (I said it. I said it.)

Stars Earn Stripes [NBC]


  1. West Point Valedictorian, Rhodes Scholar, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, Presidential Medal of Freedom Winner, Reality Show Host. Some arc.

      1. Compared to a lobbying gig at some think tank or defense contractor, this show is practically honest work…

        1. Well, he’s also co-chairman of an ethanol lobbying group and on the board of BNK Petroleum. More gas tank than think tank.

          1. Yeah, but even a reputation as shady oil-money apparatchik would be above the indignity of being a reality TV host.

  2. Why aren’t they fighting to the death hunger games style?
    Winner gets a guest role on “How I Met Your Mother”, Dancing with the Stars, and a reoccurring spot on “Americas Dumbest XXXXXXs”

      1. “Today, we have a very special ingredient…one I’m sure neither our contestant or our Iron Chefs have ever used before. Without further ado, I give you….SOYLENT GREEN!”

        She’s not an Iron Chef, but I think Giada might do this one best:

    1. Hear, hear! I’ve waited long enough for the rematch between Robert Conrad and Gabe Kaplan. Now is the time!

  3. This must be that liberal media/Hollywood that conservatives are always complaining about…

    Anyway, manufacturing consent, yada yada..

  4. I can’t help but be reminded of the last ex-governor whose spouse appeared on one of these shows.

    I’m also reminded of the immortal words of Wiley Miller: “Anyone who appears on a show with the word ‘Celebrity’ in the title, isn’t a real celebrity!” (This doesn’t technically qualify but it’s close enough.)

  5. I openly call Todd Palin’s motives into question. Of course it’s all about exposure and gain, charity is secondary to that, but it’s a bonus.

  6. There have been competitive inventing shows which are a nice attempt at replacing military hero-worship with scientist/engineer worship. But lets face it, killing people is sexier than saving the world. Sigh.

  7. This has already been done – only instead of celebrities they got a bunch of effeminate gays. I have never watched the show – but I’ve seen a highlight reel. IIRC, it’s called “Gay Army” and you can find it on youtube.

    Also the Military channels has shows that follow REAL Rangers and SEALs in their training they go through.

  8. I feel like this is some sort of satire-related corollary of Rule 34.
    Any satirical TV show meant to showcase the decadence of the horrid society that produces  it, no matter how horrible, will come to exist on network television.

    The Running Man in real life will be the show that ultimately vindicates my hypothesis.

    1.  re: “The Running Man in real life will be the show that ultimately vindicates my hypothesis.”

      OH that would be awesome! “With out further ado, it’s time to start RUNNING!”

    2. I fully expect some network to take the budget normally given for a high-end reality show and use it to hire Blackwater to overthrow a small African country just to entertain American audiences. 

      1. That would be “The Mao Tse Tung Hour” from “Network,” with the ideology-lite spun to suit current tastes.

        Personally, I thought we’d achieved parity with “Network” when “Cops” was first broadcast. And that’s when I stopped watching TV. There were other reasons and undoubtedly I missed works of cultural significance- like “The Simpsons.” But I was a kid then, that was a LONG time ago, and I don’t have any regrets.

  9. A combination of Idiocracy, Tropic Thunder, and the Hunger Games (well, Battle Royale) is something I’d watch the hell out of….

  10. Pity it’s Dean and not Herman. Herman’s been doing a great job as President on John Oliver’s DS segment lately.

  11. Todd Palin is only included as part of his family’s master plan to all create and star in a reality show about a family that keeps trying to get onto different reality shows and failing. 

  12. >The military is entertainment now. Entertainment is the military.

    We have a saying here in Russia: “He who served in the Army, won’t laugh at the circus”.

  13. What a joke!!  War is NOT a game… particularly with D (or Z) list “celebrities”.  I am outraged that, even while our  men and women are in harm’s way across the world.  This should be taken off the air before it begins.  Anyone out there who has lost someone in a real “war” should be furious.  NBC is going down the tubes really quickly from morning to nighttime viewing.

    1. I knew I couldnt be the only one thinking what an outrage this is. Do they think playing war is fun and games? What an insult to the couragious men and women who defend our country. Carolyn is absolutely right pull the plug on this BS before it airs and as for NBC I guess I shouldnt be suprised that they would stoop so low. Shame on NBC and participating celebrities.

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