When Archbishop Desmond Tutu and eight of his fellow Nobel Peace laureates take the time to chew someone out, something must be amiss. Tutu and company penned an open letter to NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt, demanding that the network cancel its new reality TV series, Stars Earn Stripes. The competition show, which premiered on Monday to mediocre ratings, pairs extremely minor celebrities — including Todd Palin and actor Dean Cain — with former members of the U.S. armed forces to undergo intense, simulated military training. Though the series' faux combat missions are intended to "honor" America's troops, and the winner gets $100,000 to donate to a military-related charity, the laureates say the show whitewashes the brutal realities of combat and merely furthers an "inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence." Has NBC crossed a line?
Not only is Stars Earn Stripes a bad idea, it's tedious: NBC is shamelessly attempting "to exploit positive feelings about the military and widely held respect for the people in it," says Linda Holmes at NPR. But even if you can accept that "offensive concept," there's no escaping the fact that Stars Earn Stripes is "stultifyingly boring as television and badly designed as a reality-competition show." To say that you can grasp "what it's like to be in the military by shooting a gun and swimming with heavy gear is like saying you can understand what it's like to have cancer by shaving your head." Also, it's "surprisingly hard" to build suspense and tension in a reality competition that's for charity.
"Stars Earn Stripes: It's offensive, but at least it's boring"
But the military operatives are fascinating characters: NBC has done a fine job of introducing us to the "first responder operatives" and giving us "an idea of their accomplishments," says Kelly West at CinemaBlend. I admittedly wouldn't mind seeing these guys "go up against one another in similar challenges." The celebrities, I can take or leave.
"NBC's action reality show puts celebrities to the test"
NBC is just practicing America's national religion — military worship: Finally, says Glenn Greenwald at Salon, execs at a major TV network are being "relatively candid about the fact that they view war and militarism, first and foremost, as a source of entertainment and profit." Reverence for "all things military" has become "America's national religion." How fitting that the entire family can enjoy a network reality show "that pairs big, muscular soldiers with adoring D-list celebrities" — it's just "way too perfect of a symbol of American culture and politics for us not to have."
"NBC's war for profit and fun"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- China's leader is telling the People's Liberation Army to prepare for war
- How I lost all my money
- The best books we read in 2014
- The religious right isn't retreating — it's reforming
- How to save money: 12 great personal finance tips
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- How to wrap a present with mathematical precision (and waste less paper)
Subscribe to the Week