Dear Dick Wolf and Mark Burnett:

The other day I was listening to Captain Dale Dye, a Certified American Bad-Ass if ever there was one, on the Adam Carolla Show. When asked about the challenges of acclimating pussy-boy and girl Hollywood actors into the realistic rigors of authentic military training, his reply was telling and dead-on: the problem has nothing to do with physical ability or even willingness, but rather, ego. And we’re talking about the most over-inflated, self-centered, douchiest egos on the planet. Captain Dye, a decorated former combat Marine, made it clear to the actors who came his way that they were getting The Real Deal and if they couldn’t or wouldn’t hack it, they were free to hit the bricks.

Captain Dye is to be applauded for his devotion to upholding the integrity of America’s Armed Forces as they are portrayed in mass media, Hollywood in particular. I am sure when you guys conceived Stars Earn Stripes and hired General Wesley Clarke and other military men of Captain Dye’s caliber to mentor the celebrities, you were thinking the same thing: let’s show the world what it really means to train to be a SEAL or Delta Force Operator or Army Ranger, and in so doing raise the level of respect and gratitude for our men and women in uniform. I’m quite sure it had nothing to do with the two of you continuing to suck at the Hollywood teat that will undoubtedly spew forth yet millions more dollars into your respective bank accounts, because, as we all know, there is no greater model of human integrity than a Reality TV Show Producer. But I fear that your show in its present form may exacerbate the very problem you are setting out to correct. Allow me to explain, and to offer a solution that will both bring you whiz-bang ratings and help you make television history.

The hoped-for narrative in your show has little to do with whether or not Laila Ali masters firing a 60mm mortar, or Terry Crews can belly crawl across under razor wire or Dolvett Quince can…wait a minute, who the fuck is Dolvett Quince? Is that even his real name? C’mon, he sounds like a character from a Dickens novel – “On his way home one fateful Christmas eve, Dolvett Quince, barrister by trade, curmudgeon by nature, was set upon by two dour youths, their faces blackened from days working the coal mines of Derbyshire, and nights in a Minstrel Show…” Sorry. Back to the point: It doesn’t matter if the celebrities complete their challenges and so reward their various charities. No, what really matters is the emotional narrative: What did the celebrities learn about themselves? How did this experience better them as individuals?  I can assure you that no matter what they say, no matter how much false humility they convincingly muster, the entire experience will have done nothing other than give them further proof of their own fabulousness.

So this leaves you in something of a quandary – how can you give the show the necessary street cred when a. nobody believes the shit is real, and b. nobody cares about the contestants.

Here’s my solution:

Kill a celebrity.

Really.  I mean it.  Kill one off, stone cold dead.

It sounds like harsh medicine, but if you think about it, a lot of good can come from this.  You wanna honor our brave men and women in uniform, especially our most skilled and deadly warriors? You wanna show the world that war craft is serious business? You want to push it to the edge? Then waste a contestant and in so doing, you will become the living definition of the edge, the edge by which all other wanna-be edges will take their measure. I think I can say with the greatest confidence that if you follow my suggestion, you will never have a credibility problem again, and were I the betting sort, I’d bet both the farm and Elsie the milk cow that your numbers will make American Idol look like a 4AM grouper fishing show on public access.

Now, I’m certainly no expert here in the “how” department. I’m guessing that shooting Picabo Street as she parachutes into the Italian Alps on skis would be impractical and perhaps a little arcane. (I was going to suggest she parachute in on rocket skis, but then you face possible legal action from the Acme Company, a needless headache I’m sure.) Similarly, Laila Ali infiltrating a stronghold in the Australian Outback and then getting beaten to death by a cadre of vicious boxing glove-wearing kangaroos might anger the animal rights community, as it puts the kangaroos in a very negative light. (Just ask the bulldogs about this.) So I will gladly leave crafting the mission that leads to the celebrity’s death in the capable hands of your military operators. The real issue is “who.” I’m sure that anyone reading this letter (your assistant, your personal protection detail, NORAD, my sister) will have a knee-jerk response as to which celebrity ought to get greased. I personally, upon reading your cast list on my iPhone, immediately found myself screaming, “Die, Todd Palin, die!” and then, because I was at the airport, was forced to submit to a cavity search. So let’s avoid such future unpleasantness and apply deductive reasoning and logic to this emotionally loaded situation.

I think we can safely rule out several contestants right off the bat, including the aforementioned Picabo and Laila. Picabo has always conducted herself with class, and even came back to win the Olympics after snapping her left femur on a downhill run gone tragically wrong. (I was going to add that the doctors told her they’d have to amputate, but through nothing other than the power of prayer and her faith in The Lord Jesus Christ, the femur knitted back together stronger than ever, but then I remembered I made that up.) So let’s keep the lovely Picabo around. Laila gets to live not because of her uncanny vocal resemblance to her dad, the great Muhammad Ali (the greatest!), her achievements in the ring, or her cheeky cha-cha on Dancing with the Stars. In her Stars Earn Stripes bio, she makes proud mention of the fact that she ran a successful nail salon in Los Angeles, a factoid that your other LA-type celebs would prefer to bury deeper than the Mariana Trench. This Laila has a work ethic and rightly sees success in any endeavor as…success.  Good for her.

Dolvett Quince gets a pass because nobody gives a rat’s ass about Dolvett Quince, whose claim to fame is apparently Justin Beiber’s current level of buffitude. Dean Cain just looks so forlorn these days I’d feel bad about wasting him –­ he’s the only one in the group who looks like he could use a little shot of self-esteem. It must be hard to go from Superman to Regular Dude Without a Hit TV Show, especially when your co-star, Teri Hatcher, goes on to become a cultural icon for her wonderful self-help books (“Burnt Toast” changed my life) and her encouragement of a generation of women to install stripper poles in their homes. (I know a woman who weighs somewhere north of 200 pounds who tried one of Teri’s more challenging routines and, coincidentally, like Picabo Street, fell and broke her femur. She also suffered a concussion and spent several weeks in a coma and now drools slightly when she speaks, but the important thing is, she learned that even a woman of her Hindenburg-like girth could be sexy. You go girl!)

Next, I have to rule out Terry Crews because he is funny and a very good actor and I fear he would crush my head like a pecan in a nutcracker with one flex of his mighty pectorals if he ever got wind I was lobbying for his demise. But mainly because he is a very good actor and the world needs very good actors. (We good Terry, right?)

So that leaves three. Eve Torres, a former WWE wrestler, and according to her bio, Super Smart Hot Chick is tempting, as the world is genetically wired to hardcore mourn the death of a beautiful young woman. From Marilyn Monroe to Anna Nicole Smith the death of a great beauty feels like the destruction of a timeless work of art, so Eve’s death would, you know, be so about her. Thus, we’re down to Todd Palin and Nick Lachey.

As much as I would enjoy watching the Conservatives try to blame Palin’s death at the hands, or rather teeth, of a school of Amazonian piranha on the Liberal Agenda, The First Dude’s untimely demise would earn a kiloton of sympathy points for grieving widow Sarah, and her new-found popularity would carry her into the White House as a write-in, thus ending Western Civilization, or what’s left of it, as we know it. So, through the process of elimination, the celebrity marked for death must be, can only be…

Nick Lachey.

That’s right. Good-looking, multi-millionaire, pop star, entrepreneur, charity maven Nick Lachey. Now, you’re probably thinking, “This is just sour grapes because you’re not a good-looking, multi-millionaire pop star entrepe…” Yeah. Okay. You got me there. Even though it’s hard to say “Nick Lachey” without smirking over his many cheeseball exploits, including his marriage to Jessica Simpson who, for all we know, still equates opening a can of tuna fish with solving Fermat’s Last Thoerem, Nick Lachey has done more with his life than most people, and he’s worth about twenty million smackers to boot. No wonder he’s such a cocky bastard. So poor Nick’s death will perfectly remind us of the dangers of hubris, particularly when it involves believing that the ability to croon forgettable pre-packaged pop nonsense to screaming fourteen year-olds will somehow prepare you to shoot your way out of a Kill Box. Nick’s career will also, somewhat belatedly, get a much-needed bump when, in retrospect, we all remember that he got farther in life than most, but flew too close to the sun, and the sun just happened to be packing a M40 Sniper Rifle.

Will the world miss Nick Lachey? Yeah. Absolutely. Until the next time some poor deranged motherfucker guns down some coeds in a college dining hall or Lindsay Lohan’s next nipple slip. So show the world Stars Earn Stripes means business while you still have the chance. Teach every celebrity everywhere that when someone pick ups a weapon, playtime is over, people get fucking killed. And let’s be honest here – the real reason people are going to watch the show in the first place is on the off-chance one of the celebs ends up getting snuffed on camera. To quote Bonnie Raitt, “Let’s give ‘em something to talk about.” And then we’ll know who the real celebrity bad-asses are by who signs up for Season Two.

Best regards, Semper Fi, Anchors Aweigh and oorah,

Lee Michael Cohn


Back in the 90s when we were doing theatre in New York, my friend Jake Daehler and I coined a phrase: “Theater of Obligation.” This referred to the fact that since your friends made the shlep downtown to some pathetic excuse for a theater that was, until you and your fellow eager-beaver actors got ahold of it, probably a hazardous waste storage facility or a crack den, and then watched you perform in a mime/hip-hop adaptation of “Hedda Gabler,” you were in turn obligated to return the favor and sit through their musical version of “Hamlet”, set on the Moon. It occurs to me there is a Theatre of Obligation resonance to blogging: we read our friends’ blogs because, you know, that means they have to read ours. Now, I have a shit ton of talented writer friends, and reading their stuff is usually a pleasure, but let’s face it, many blogs are simply a more verbose version of the meaningless Facebook status update: “I had a bagel for dinner…because I’m a rebel.” Now add 500 words and poof! Blog!

I’ve decided to change all that, and in the process, yes, fix the world. One letter at a time. The great Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in their sketch “The Frog and Peach” put it best:

SIR ARTHUR STREEB-GREEBLING: Remember that – World War Two?

INTERVIEWER: Yes, indeed.

STREEB-GREEBLING: Absolutely ghastly business.

INTERVIEWER: Yes, indeed.

STREEB-GREEBLING: Absolutely ghastly business.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, yes, indeed.

STREEB-GREEBLING: I was completely against it.

INTERVIEWER: Well, I think we all were.

STREEB-GREEBLING: Yes, but I wrote a letter.

Read that last line again.

STREEB-GREEBLING: Yes, but I wrote a letter.

Now just imagine if millions of people had written letters to Adolph Hitler right after he invaded Poland. Might the anger and indignation of the people of Europe, expressed in the form of hand-written missives, have stopped the Panzer Blitz dead in its tracks?  Of course not. Are you nuts?  We’re talking about Adolph Hitler, a very busy man who didn’t have the time to read mail, even fan mail (he had a guy, the “Uber-Mailbag-Reader-Unter-Fuhrer” who answered his fan mail and autographed his 8×10 glossy photos, so if you have one that reads “Love, Adolph”, I’m sorry to tell you it’s probably a fake). But think of the havoc fifty million letters would have wreaked on the Nazi Postal Service. Soldiers would have been recalled from the battlefield. The keenest minds in the Nazi war machine would have been re-tasked to figure out how to deliver, store and respond to the avalanche, nay the tsunami, of envelopes deluging the German High Command. Imagine the war in North Africa if Field Marshall Rommel, “The Desert Fox”, was re-tasked to a sorting center in Dusseldorf rather than driving the Allies crazy with his seemingly invisible tanks in Moroccan desert.  The Allies would have made short work of that campaign and spared us the TV show “Combat.”

Now, I’m just one guy who can only type with three fingers at a time, but I believe those three fingers can make a difference, especially the middle ones. So with this blog, I intend to challenge the powerful, call out the hypocritical, and whine and complain with all the vociferous gusto of a member of my tribe waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant. (“It’s been half an hour. You said fifteen minutes. We’re starving here!”)

Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” Thus begins my “Journey of 1,000 Letters”, after which, if the world is not a better place, vanquished of evil, ignorance and Geraldo Rivera, I will retire my quill, or start writing something useful, like blurbs on the back of porn DVDs, or nutritional information on cereal boxes, which in my opinion are trey light on literary style.

So, thanks for reading, and in the grand tradition of Theatre of Obligation I will now happily read your blog about what a douche your boy(girl)friend is.