Reality Television Goes To “War”

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 15 2012 @ 8:00am


by Chas Danner

This week NBC premiered a new show in which "celebrities" like "4-Time Iron Dog Champion" Todd Palin are paired with military and law enforcement personnel then set loose in competitive war simulations (the winnings go to charity). Allison Keene pans it:

There have been protests in recent weeks that the show attempts to turn war into entertainment. If only. There are extreme amounts of platitudes offered by the contestants to the military, and while the reverence and deference towards the soldiers may be well earned and deserved, it does not make for interesting television. The complaint that the show unfairly sanitizes the gruesomeness of war is valid. It does seem to belittle the soldiers' experience to turn what they do into a competition. Worse, after merely one exercise the celebrities already begin talking about how they "understand what the soldiers have been through." Doubtful.

The protests she's referring to include a letter that nine Nobel Peace Prize winners wrote to NBC trying to get the show canned. Speaking of getting canned, Spencer Ackerman has done a must-read post-mortem on the less-than-sparkling career of one of the show's hosts, General Wesley Clark:

[Becoming the military representative on Stars Earn Stripes] seems like a bewildering career decision from a man who finished first in his West Point class and became a Rhodes scholar. But ever since retiring, Clark’s made a second career out of pimping his first. He shilled for dubious tech products before turning himself into a product — that is, attempting to become president of the United States within three years of getting fired from his job running NATO’s Kosovo war. Along the way, he inadvertently bolstered the case of his many, many military critics, who considered him a clown. Oh, and according to one of his subordinates, he came close to starting World War III.