Put “celebrity” in the title, and we’ll watch anything.
That’s presumably the mind-set of television executives who, since the breakout success of Dancing With the Stars in 2005, have produced a slew of baffling reality competitions featuring “stars”—in the loosest definition of that term—doing any number of bizarre activities. Sure, the tradition may stretch back to the Battle of the Network Stars specials in the ’70s and ’80s, but gone are the goofy sports competitions starring TV’s hottest actors. Now we have someone who used to be on Jersey Shore jumping off a diving board. In other words, the medium has changed a lot—and ridiculously.
On Tuesday night, ABC unveils Splash, which, if you can believe it, is the second reality series this year to feature past-their-prime stars on the high dive. As the nation gears up to watch the likes of former Playboy playmate Kendra Wilkinson, NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and comedian Louie Anderson belly-flop in Speedos, here’s a look back at some of the oddest celebrity competition shows.
‘Stars in Danger’
Stars in Danger was a bit of a dramatic title for Fox’s version of a celebrity diving competition, which aired last month, considering the most perilous thing that made it to air was Jersey Shore star JWoww’s attempt at acting too scared of jumping into the pool. The esteemed list of “celebrity” divers: Real Housewives Kim and Kyle Richards, Baywatch stars Alexandra Paul and David Chochaki, and shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton.
‘Skating With the Stars’
ABC probably made the most blatant attempt to replicate the success of Dancing With the Stars with 2010’s Skating With the Stars, which basically just moved Dancing With the Stars from the ballroom to an ice rink. Bethenny Frankel, Vince Neil, and Olympian Jonny Moseley all fumbled their best axels and lutzes, but the series’ frosty ratings failed to land it a second-season pickup.
‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’
All I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! really amounted to was Celebrity Survivor, on which a coven of C-listers lived in the jungle with no luxuries until one person was crowned king or queen. (Indeed, CBS did sue in 2002, alleging the series was too close to Survivor.) The first season to air in the U.S., in 2003, featured Melissa Rivers and Bruce Jenner. But the most gloriously trashy—in every beautiful, despicable sense—was the second season, in 2009, starring Janice Dickinson, Patti Blagojevich, American Idol’s Sanjaya Malakar, and The Hills’ Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt.
‘Celebrity Boot Camp’
Coolio and Greg Brady (Barry Williams) are barked at by military training officers. This 2002 failure was pretty much as fun to watch as that sounds.
How classy was Celebrity Boxing, the two-episode special that aired in 2002? TV Guide ranked it number six that year on its list of the 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time. Among the amateur pugilists facing off against each other: stand-up Americans Tonya Harding, Paula Jones, Joey Buttafuoco, and Vanilla Ice.
If you ever wanted to see Xena, the Warrior Princess belt out “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with Bonnie Tyler, then this was the show for you. It aired in 2006.
‘Celebrity Rap Superstar’
The cast list for Celebrity Rap Superstar is quintessentially 2007. The show featured Laguna Beach star Jason Wahler, Kevin Federline baby mama Shar Jackson, gossip blogger Perez Hilton, and Playmate Kendra Wilkinson rapping along to classic hip-hop tracks each week. The results were alternately humiliating and disastrous, with Wilkinson’s version of Ludacris’s “What’s Your Fantasy” as the case in point.
‘Celebrity Wife Swap’
It’s Wilkinson again! This time, she’s on Celebrity Wife Swap, a show in which two wives switch lives for a week and the fish-out-of-water results are exploited on camera. Special celebrity editions of the show have featured Gilbert Gottfried and Alan Thicke, Garey Busey and Ted Haggard, and Tracey Gold and Carnie Wilson. It’s Wilkinson’s February episode with reality star and mom of eight Kate Gosselin, however, that earned the series its highest ratings.
It’s the show on which Brady Bunch alum Christopher Knight, Clueless star Stacey Dash, and soap actor Antonio Sabato Jr. ran away and joined the circus. Audiences didn’t follow. It was canceled after one season in 2008.