I’m not a big fan of celebrity reality shows — they tend to be overly staged in an effort to either protect or manage the star’s image. The Surreal Life is about as close as I get to “celebreality,” and even that tries my patience. It was with that mindset that I began watching Armed and Famous, the new CBS reality show that places five celebrities in the Muncie, IN police department and has them enforce the law. My expectations were low. Very low. But here’s the shocker: Armed and Famous is awesome. Very little of it feels staged, the celebs take it seriously, and the cast’s amiable rapport seems genuine. This is what The Simple Life should have been. Most critics have bashed it, probably in fear that their peers will think less of them, but let’s not forget the writers who assail Armed and Famous are the same ones who affectionately praise The Class. Of course, since this is the blogosphere, I don’t really care what other people may think of me for endorsing this silly show. So… ha!There’s only one problem with this show: it’s not very recap-able. Much in the same way that it’s impossible to recap a comedy, it feels weird trying to make jokes about things that the producers are already making jokes about. Needless to say, the premiere had several noteworthy moments that just can’t go unnoticed.
The show began with the five recruits arriving at the Muncie, IN police department. Our “stars” were Erik Estrada, LaToya Jackson, Canadian WWE star Trish Stratus, Jack Osbourne, and Jackass favorite Wee Man (a.k.a. Jason Acuña). They seemed like a ragtag bunch, but they all approached this assignment very seriously, as they all told us in their interviews (which were filmed in EXTREME closeups. Needless to say, Latoya’s surgically enhanced face was not what I wanted to see on my widescreen TV).
Anyway, off the get-go, the police officers seemed dubious of the celebs’ commitment to the show, especially Jason and LaToya, but despite a preemptive scolding by the training officer, the stars seemed undeterred from their mission at hand. The cast dove into training with nary a hissy fit or a complaint.
First up, the gang had to learn the basics of a routine traffic stop. Erik Estrada boasted about his wealth of experience from the CHiPs days, but I’m not sure how a cop show from the ’70s could have any bearings on modern day techniques. This was most evident during a drill when Erik demanded that a driver step out of a car, get on his knees, and put his hands on his head — for a traffic violation. At least he fared better than LaToya who actually shot a man she had “pulled over.”
LaToya, it turned out, had a bit of rage built up in her or something like that. She was a crazy woman when it came time for violence. During the hand-to-hand combat lessons, she managed to give Jack Osbourne a nasty welt, but I guess what goes around comes around. LaToya also fell victim to one police officer’s vicious blows to her shoulders. I thought she’d burst into tears and storm out, but instead, she actually sucked it up pretty well. Good for Toy-Toy! Somewhere amidst this, she called her brother Jackie and revealed that she was training to be a cop. He was understandably shocked, and when he threatened to tell “Mother,” LaToya pleaded for him to be quiet. DO NOT TELL MOTHER!
Later, the stars had to learn the fine nuances of the Taser. According to state law, no one could carry a Taser unless they’d been Tasered themselves. You know what that meant: time to fry some celebs! They all took the Tasering pretty well, even if Erik Estrada’s testicles swelled up like water balloons. I particularly enjoyed LaToya’s reaction to the Taser — she basically collapsed on the floor in a swoon of pain. Most impressive, however, was Trish who requested to be actually shot with the Taser (everyone else was having prongs carefully attached to her back). Needless to say, it did not look like a particularly pleasant experience, but since Trish cut her teeth at the WWE, she showed little discomfort. I probably would have gone into a coma.
Finally, it was the moment we’d all been waiting for: gun training. To all those who ever thought it would be a bad idea to put a loaded gun in LaToya Jackson’s hands — you were right. Her bullets were flying everywhere. Only a few even hit the target. People of Muncie: do not leave your houses.
Actually, LaToya eventually reeled in her glock of rage, eventually qualifying to be a real deal cop. And with that, the group was sworn in at a loud and proud ceremony that half the town flocked to. Surprisingly enough, the celebs seemed genuinely touched by this show of support, and once again my heart warmed at the prospect that the producers had enough respect for the audience to not stage every single scene.
Well, with training over, it was time to hit the streets. That’s when the real fun started. Each celeb was paired with a cop, and soon they were driving around the mean streets, looking to protect and serve as best they could. LaToya’s partner was a real ballbuster of a lady, saying that this was her car and she was in charge. Jury’s out on whether there was some repressed lesbian rage there, but LaToya was respectful, and soon the ice began to melt between the two. At one point, they went to dinner at steak house — the type where you eat peanuts at the table and throw the shells on the floor. This was a shock for poor LaToya, who was used to the less legume-centric decor of “Spago’s” and Mr. Chow’s. According to her, she was used to eating at places with tablecloths, and while I thought she was just making a general joke, she then literally asked for a tablecloth. As you can imagine, the restaurant had no such things, but they did march out several napkins, creating something of a patchwork tablecloth for Ms. Jackson. It was perfect. Well, almost perfect. She just needed one more thing: a finger bowl. I didn’t know people still used those things, but then again, this request was coming from a woman who earlier in the show tried to shove a dollar bill into a coin slot at the laundromat. Nevertheless, the smiling waiter was happy to oblige (LaToya’s partner was shocked he even knew what one was).
Later on, LaToya and her partner had to arrest some guy with an outstanding warrant. He was one big blob of a man, and I was shocked these two small women could take him down. LaToya and her partner (I wish I could remember her name — Oooh! It’s Amy) slapped some cuffs on him (two sets to be specific), but they weren’t done yet. Turns out there was another guy in the house. LaToya demanded that he step out, and in her soft, sweet voice (that was not unlike that one woman from Police Academy), she politely arrested him. It was both impressive and hilarious and oddly captivating. That’s when I knew I loved this show.
Elsewhere in Muncie, Erik Estrada and his partner Jami arrived on a crime scene where they had to search a house for evidence. What they found was a whole lot of crack and some bookkeeping notes, but the kingpin behind it all was none other than an old lady with no teeth. Normally, most people would be upset to be hauled off to jail, but this lady seemed to be having a blast. Whether it was the drugs coursing through her system or maybe just a generally sunny disposition, she was all smiles, especially thanks to Erik Estrada, who she immediately recognized. In the car, she continued to marvel over how wonderful it was to be apprehended by Ponch, and soon everyone was laughing and giggling as if this were the funniest sitcom ever. Sorry, lady. You’re going to the SLAMMER!
Jack Osbourne’s night was similarly eventful. He and his partner were called to the scene of some sort of spat where one guy in a trailer home punched another guy. The only thing that made this noteworthy was that the punching victim had strange, deformed hands that looked kind of like talons. Jack described them as “crab hands,” and even though I try not to stare at or deride people with physical deformities, dammit if it wasn’t disgusting. Sorry! (Seriously, it was nasty).
Jason’s big case was probably the least interesting — he merely pulled over a guy with so much crack on him, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was heading over to that old lady’s house. Meanwhile, Trish had the “heartwarming” case of the night — tending to a family after their house had just burned down. And right before Christmas too. Cue the sad music. Trish did a solid job making the family feel better, and afterwards, she discovered a random metal box with all the Christmas presents tucked away safely inside. A Christmas miracle!
All in all, it was a successful first night on the force for the celebs. CBS is airing a second episode tonight, which promises some intense feline-on-LaToya action. Hopefully tonight’s show will be as hilarious as the pilot. What did you think of the show?