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This wasn't how it was supposed to be. Reality TV was supposed to come and go like all of the other flavors of the week. But here it is the dawn of 2007 and what are we left with? "Armed and Famous." I'm not going to call it the first sign of the apocalypse, but don't be surprised if in some future episode Wee-Man gets called to a farm about a red calf being born.
Satanic possibilities aside, the show is far from the worst reality offering that I have encountered. In my mind, celebrity based reality TV peaked with "Celebrity Mole: Hawaii" unfortunately, this is no "Celebrity Mole: Hawaii." It never rises to the sublime heights of "Celebrity Mole" or "The Surreal Life" but it also never plumbs the depths of American Idol's 14 weekly episodes.
The casting decisions aren't bad. Even if I have no idea what she has done that would qualify her as famous, seeing Latoya (the crazy one) Jackson with a gun is compelling. And making Erik Estrada a real cop just might be the best bit of stunt casting since Paris Hilton was impaled on a giant pole in night shot then bukkaked on the poster of "House of Wax." The Network describes the first episode thusly: "The celebrities arrive in Muncie, Indiana to begin their training to become official reserve police officers. From their first meeting with the head of the Muncie police department, Chief Joe Winkle, the cadets realize they're no longer in Hollywood. Muncie's newest crime fighters are in for the challenge of their life as they learn about everything from firearms, hand-to-hand combat and what it's like to be on the receiving end of a taser gun. Upon completion of their training, the celebrities are issued badges and guns, partnered with veteran officers and immediately hit the streets. To these five celebrities, serving the people of Muncie is a tremendous honor, but will they be able to live up to the real life pressures of being ARMED & FAMOUS?" To answer all the questions that must be racing through your mind, yes, it does feel totally staged, yes there are arbitrary "uplifting" momentslike the sickeningly gratuitous episode closer where Trish Stratus, a former WWE star, ineptly tries to console a family after their house burns down. Yes Wee-Man does get shocked with a Taser and no, it's not that funny anymore. But, most importantly, yes, the stars are self deluded enough to actually be entertaining from time to time.
Unfortunately, what should have been this show's core is totally passed over. By half way through the first episode, the whole gang is already certified police officers. This just seems like a waste. There is no way "Jack Osborne, police officer" is going to be as amusing as "Jack Osborne, wannabe police cadet." All we see of the training is the aforementioned Taser shocks, some boring and cursory gun and combat instruction and a pathetic and unfunny introductory lecture from the local police chief.
Still, the show does have its' moments. Towards the end of the premiere, Estrada goes to arrest a crack dealer, (and by the way, who knew Indiana had so much crack? The show could almost be called "Celebrities in Crack City USA" but then, that brings to mind an entirely different program) who turns out to be a 75 year old woman who is thrilled to be arrested by "Ponch." She is maybe the most pleasant drug dealer of all time. So, that was fun.
But the whole show doesn't hang together. There is no pacing. For example in the second segment there is, for no discernible reason, a scene of the celebrities trying to do laundry. Also, there are too many celebrities to follow. Wee-Man has screen presence, and Estrada and Jackson are amusing, but Osborne and Stratus are utter non-entities. This, coupled with the show's obviously staged early scenes is crippling.
There is a good documentary to be made about the process of becoming a police officer, especially in this patriotism-hungry period. People are looking for heroes, and police and firemen could fill that need, but Erik Estrada and Wee-Man playing dress up with real guns just isn't going to cut it.
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