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The first episode of “Stars Earn Stripes” was a two-hour jam-packed premiere that paired notable star celebrities with professional operatives. These operatives come from many branches of the U.S armed services and law enforcement agencies, each with many years of hard earned skills put to the test under years of military service. Notable stars for the show include entertainer Nick Lachey, boxing champion Laila Ali, movie star Dean Cain and football player turned action star Terry Crews.
The reality show centers on each star and their operative coaches. Operatives train their recruit as well as participate in each of the challenges, aiding their stars on the road to earning their stripes. Each week a new stripe is added while the losing two teams move onto a head to head elimination. From introduction to ending, training footage is shown mixed in as flashbacks and present time events as the show slowly builds momentum. This is a good format and leaves the show feeling well paced, if only a tad routine.
The ultimate prize is 100,000 for the military charity pre-chosen by the winning celebrity. In between the first elimination and the last, other smaller donations will be made the charity of every team at the end of each week. This is a laudable goal and one of the key redeeming features in a show that has otherwise been labeled a show that unnecessarily glorifies war and armed violence.
The challenges are no easy feat though, with live ammunition and explosive ordinance a staple for this show. There is nothing campy or cheesy about this show. It bills itself as a real life reality experience and so far the first episode proves this in spades. There is no shortage of surprises as the winners and losers aren’t who viewers might initially have expected.
Not surprisingly, admiration is ever-building between the stars and their operatives. In a twist, while these military operatives cannot talk about their missions, the stars make it known that they greatly appreciate the service that the men and women of the armed forces provide. Yes, there is admiration for the stars themselves but in this case, it is the operators who blush at some of the praise heaped on by the civilian celebrities.
Through the mud and under the barbed wire, over the water and up in the air, military operations of all types are included in “Stars Earn Stripes”. Land, sea and air insertions are littered in this episode alone as the stars experience first-hand the hardships and triumphs of a successful armed intervention. There is excellent use of point-of-view cameras on both the star and the operative, showing viewers the exact visual situation of each person in the field.
The one knock against the formatting for this specific episode is that of the four squads, Alpha and Charlie squads go into the mission completely blind with no knowledge of the mission details. They have a basic dossier on what type of mission, the exact locations and tasks that need to be performed but nothing else. Bravo and Delta squads however, are shown real time video footage of Alpha and Charile Squads as they complete the mission. It is true that nothing in real life is fair, but this may be taking it too far, giving Bravo and Delta Squads an unfair advantage. It seems that NBC and the show producers embrace this philosophy; either knowingly or accidentally.
Thus far, the first episode revealed the two hour format for a mostly practical and physically realistic show. No real bullets are fired at the stars in this episode, though plenty of explosions go off left and right, adding to the chaos. The stars themselves pack live ammunition to take out mobile non-human targets and physical structures. As host, Samantha Harris has to brush up a little bit, this isn’t “Dancing With The Stars” after all. Only the second episode will reveal if any changes have been made to the format of the show as the four man squads break rank and only the stars with their operatives remain in teams of two.
Rating: 4/5 For excellent reality TV premiere that captures the harsh tasks of the military but needs refinement in pacing and execution.