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…
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