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Friday, June 20, 2008

Celebrity Circus: Send in the clowns.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2008 at 12:49 PM

It's almost a given that if a show has "celebrity" in the title, it will be shameless, low-rent and unlikely to feature any actual celebrities. This is a designation that has been severely downgraded, and now -- per reality TV -- includes all sorts of people you've never heard of, the very antithesis of what defines a celebrity.

Celebrity Fit Club. Celebrity Mole. Celebrity Apprentice. Celebrity Poker. Celebrity Family Feud. All packed with has-beens, never-weres and, in a burgeoning new sub-strata of "celebrity," ordinary individuals whose only claim to more TV time is that they were on a previous reality show. Call 'em double-dippin' nobodies. (Celebrity Rehab gets the one pass, here: It's the same motley crew, but part of what's landed them in treatment is their ongoing delusion that they actually are celebrities.)

Currently NBC -- that grand peacock -- has a trifecta of low-ball reality entertainment with Nashville Star, America's Got Talent and, now, Celebrity Circus. I groaned when I saw the previews, but that clip of "Bobby Brady" falling flat on his face while strapped in a big wheel tempted.

I had my DVR disgorge the first two episodes, and what I watched was truly three hours of rot.

Among the celebrities I'd never heard of: Stacy Dash, actress; Janet Evans, Olympic swimmer; and Blu Cantrell, singer. For better or worse, I can speak with some authority to Wee Man, Rachel Hunter, Chris "Bobby Brady" Knight, and I sort of recall Antonio Sabato Jr. from somewhere.

Host-slash-ringmaster Joey Fatone (huge! Get thee to Celebrity Fit Club!) bops around the phoniest set, where about 200 spectators pretend to be amazed at the overly choreographed acts. The oohs, ahhs, shrieks and gasps of the crowd are all piped in, and without much care. Hear the crowd roar and clap wildly, but see them sitting there impassively, hands on lap.

I didn't quite get the background to the challenge, but it seems each celeb has had 8 weeks of training and has to learn several basic circus acts, some involving a good bit of physical strength (even as they're roped up) and coordination.

But it was hard to care -- who are these people, and if their performances are so good, why is the applause so phony? Plus, if you buy into it, Celebrity Circus is self-defeating: If anybody can walk in off the street, and become a circus star in two months, than, by extension, what is the attraction of seeing any circus performers?

Of marginal interest were Sabato's chest (which drew raves from all three judges); Blu Cantrell's hissy fit, with its "I'll show you!" tantrum to rival any Idol wannabe tossed from auditions; Evans' ungainly trapeze act, which looked like a Molly Shannon skit.; and waaaaaay-gay, lisping judge Louie Spence (whoever he is), who is in serious danger of death by fabuuuuuuuuuulous.

At one point during the second episode, I realized that I was watching 50-year-old Knight flirt with a girl in a bikini, while wearing top hat that was on fire, as "Good Vibrations" played, and thought: Holy moley, this is a trainwreck! Then, Knight's crotch exploded.

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