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With “Stars Earns Stripes” NBCs Finally Cashes in on War

By Kik (1400 words)
Posted in Family on August 13, 2012

There are (2) comments permalink

There is a new series “Stars Earn Stripes” that has been advertised throughout the 2012 Olympic coverage by NBC – and every time the commercial comes on my mother turns apoplectic.


"In this fast-paced competition, the eight celebrities will gather at a remote training facility where they will be challenged to execute complicated missions inspired by real military exercises. From helicopter drops into water to long-range weapons fire, the contestants will be tested physically, mentally and emotionally.


Each will be paired with a special operative from a military branch or one of our first-responder forces, including former U.S. Army Delta Force and Green Berets, U.S. Navy SEALS, U.S. Marines and police officers, who train alongside their partners and compete in the missions with them. Each of the teams is competing for a cash prize on behalf of a military, veterans or first-responder charity"


I hadn’t really given much thought to the show myself – other than thinking “Gee that looks incredibly stupid,” until Mom began to point out how disrespectful the whole thing is to our soldiers who face real combat challenges every day. 


There was a little part of me that thought she may have been overly dramatic.  After all, everybody knows that there is a difference between actual battle and a reality show…..right?  Everybody knows that our Armed Forces are facing challenges that none of us – and certainly not Hollywood’s finest C-list “actors” – could begin to understand or realistically “act out”….right?  Right?


I don’t know.  When it comes down to it  I don’t think I have that much faith in the people who put the Kardashian Family in a position to sign a $45m contract for their reality shows.  I say – the US population is a little warped in dividing reality from fictionalized reality. 


The articles being written about the show already frame it in a way that makes these stars actually seem heroic!! 



But, Crews said all of his tough guy ‘ish went directly out the window when he paired with real special operations and law enforcement elite for the NBC reality series, “Stars Earn Stripes.”

 “I can say I almost drowned, and that’s for real,” Crews told TV critics at the recent TCA Press Tour. “There was a moment where I always like to be in shape. I pride myself – like, you know, I’m 5 percent body fat. Well, that don’t work swimming, OK? Found that out, especially when you put 70 pounds of equipment on. And I actually swam the longest I’ve ever swam in my life. But I reached the point where I couldn’t go anymore and I can’t describe the feeling.” SOURCE


Heroic!!  In a controlled setting!!! Where nobody is going to lose a life!!!   Or limb!!  Or return home to an economy with no jobs!! Or suffer from post traumatic stress disorder!!!

In fact - Robert Lloyd the reviewer from the LATimes says it best:

"So, when football-pro-turned-actor Terry Crews says, "I'm so looking forward to taking on a real mission with real weapons and real ammunition," he is right about the weapons and the ammunition, but he is on a real mission only in the way that is the mission of a Candy Land player to make it through the Gumdrop Mountains and Molasses Swamp to reach the Candy Castle. It's like a highly demanding form of paintball, or rock 'n' roll fantasy camp with a competition narrative laced on." SOURCE


At this point I’m pretty sure that if NBC ran the world Laila Ali would wind up having a major roadway renamed after her because of her bravery in the show “Stars Earn Stripes”, and Dean Cain would be on postage stamps because he will have saved fake lives on tv twice – first as Superman and now on this reality show. 


I can just imagine NBC executives ruminating over the bad taste that this show may leave in people’s mouths.  “We’ll pay the stars – but have them give their prizes to charity!”   “We’ll have General Wesley Clark – who we already pay as an analyst give his seal of approval by hosting the show!”  “We’ll include real soldiers so that we get the buy in of the armed forces as well.”  The producers – have already said that their intentions are to “honor the military”.  


And truthfully - maybe that is the outcome.  And that would be an AWESOME outcome.  But does it justify the means of making real battle situations seem like something anyone could do on tv?


I know that it is tough to think of a way to honor the troops that the American public will consume in the same fashion it does The Kardashians.  I would like to believe that the producers of this show felt like there had to be some way to bring attention to our soldiers and all they have gone through in the past decade + of war in the Middle East.  But I really don’t believe that dumbing it down to the level of a reality show contest is the right way to go about it.  


I feel ESPECIALLY strong about the glorification of war after reading stories about real, live brave men and women like Major Ben Richards, who Nicholas Kristof wrote about this weekend in the New York Times.  Richards, who had an IQ of about 148 before he went to Iraq and suffered multiple concussions, is now at home struggling to be the same father and husband he was before he left.  If you haven’t had a chance to read the Op Ed Column please do – it is something that

 IT would be so much easier, Maj. Ben Richards says, if he had just lost a leg in Iraq. 

Instead, he finds himself losing his mind, or at least a part of it. And if you want to understand how America is failing its soldiers and veterans, honoring them with lip service and ceremonies but breaking faith with them on all that matters most, listen to the story of Major Richards.

For starters, he’s brilliant. (Or at least he was.) He speaks Chinese and taught at West Point, and his medical evaluations suggest that until his recent problems he had an I.Q. of about 148. After he graduated from West Point, in 2000, he received glowing reviews.

“Ben Richards is one of the best military officers I have worked with in 13 years of service,” noted an evaluation, one of many military and medical documents he shared with me.

Yet Richards’s intellect almost exacerbates his suffering, for it better equips him to monitor his mental deterioration — and the failings of the Army that he has revered since he was a young boy.

Military suicides are the starkest gauge of our nation’s failure to care adequately for those who served in uniform. With America’s wars winding down, the United States is now losing more soldiers to suicide than to the enemy. Include veterans, and the tragedy is even more sweeping. For every soldier killed in war this year, about 25 veterans now take their own lives.

President Obama said recently that it was an “outrage” that some service members and veterans sought help but couldn’t get it: “We’ve got to do better. This has to be all hands on deck.” Admirable words, but so far they’ve neither made much impact nor offered consolation to those who call the suicide prevention hot line and end up on hold.

The military’s problems with mental health services go far beyond suicide or the occasional murders committed by soldiers and veterans. Far more common are people like Richards, who does not contemplate violence of any kind but is still profoundly disabled.

An astonishing 45 percent of those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries, in many cases psychological ones. It’s unclear how many are exaggerated or even fraudulent, but what is clear is this: the financial cost of these disabilities will be huge, yet it is dwarfed by the human cost."....Read the entire article HERE


In a best case scenario maybe Stars Earns Stripes willbe able to find a way to make it known that our Veterans have many needs that are not being met.  And that these people who have risked much more than just a bad hair day on prime time television deserve our gratitude, our attention, and our help - as they were so willing to help when we asked them to. 

Comments (2)

NMB posted on: August 13, 2012

Absolutely perfectly stated. Thank you. Love you.

kik posted on: August 13, 2012


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Kirsten Bischoff is Founding Partner of A graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, she has spent most of her career entrenched in the highly entertaining world of…finance.  Kirsten lives in Springfield, NJ and when she is not working on she can usually be found playing chauffer to her over-scheduled twelve-year-old daughter Sophie. 

Megan Brown is Founding Partner of A graduate of University of Cincinnati she has over a decade’s worth of Wall Street experience spanning both sales trading and asset management marketing.  Megan lives in Westfield, NJ with her husband Josh and their daughter Madeleine.