Why Celebrity Circus is a Death-Defying Disappointment

Last night NBC premiered Celebrity Circus, the latest reality show to feature D-list celebrities performing stupid human tricks. You know, since Secret Talents of the Stars went so well for CBS. ABC might turn out to be the winner in this battle between the networks for the silliest celebrity competition; they decided to quit while they were ahead and scrap their revival of Circus of the Stars.

Joey Fatone, who is apparently trying to break some sort of record for apearing on the most cheesy reality shows of any former boy band member (with the Lachey brothers hot on his tail) is the ringmaster. The contestants are Jason "Wee Man" Acuna from Jackass, R&B singer Blu Cantrell, Stacy Dash (Dionne from Clueless), Olympic swimmer Janet Evans, Rachel Hunter, Christopher Knight, and Antonio Sabato Jr. The judges are Olympic gymnast Mitch Gaylord, circus performer Aurelia Cats, and dancer Louie Spence.

Although I think public tolerance for this type of programming might be waning, Celebrity Circus has several things going for it that Secret Talents of the Stars didn't. First of all, the circus angle allows for a cohesive theme. Just about everybody has fond memories of a family trip to the circus when Barnum & Bailey's was in town. (Although I am now horrified at the treatment of circus animals and was glad not to see any animal acts in Celebrity Circus.) There are also more performances and less filler, at least at first. Instead of four performances per show, all seven celebs will get a chance to perform (one will be eliminated each week). And people who aren't on the East coast will be able to vote this time.

But the biggest difference? Danger! Although George Takei's singing was certainly painful, it didn't really put him in any peril. Here, the celebrities take on real, death defying circus stunts like the trapeze, and wheel of death. In fact, Christopher Knight fractured his arm in the "German Wheel" (kind of like a giant hamster wheel for people), Stacy Dash broke three ribs falling while climbing a big piece of fabric, and Janet Evans fell off the trapeze. Sweet!

That's the good news. The bad news is that Celebrity Circus still wasn't all that good. There's still too much filler. (Does anybody really care about the "in-training" footage?) The pop music selections, which often work disturbingly well on Dancing With the Stars, seem incongruous. If Cirque Du Soliel has taught us anything, it's that trapeze acts go best with weird music that has lyrics in French. The celebrities perform with professionals, which makes things a little more exciting, but can lead to too much going on at once. (That probably works better if you're seeing it in person.)

Ever since the first season of Dancing with the Stars, I have been wishing that Circus of the Stars would come back. I have such fond memories of the '80s cheesiness. The recent forays into celebrity stunt competitions have forced me to conclude that either a) this type of thing is a lot more entertaining when you're 10, or b) the '80s are over, and no amount of sequins can bring them back.

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Amy Kane spends as much quality time with her television as possible, when she's not busy at her day job as a cube dweller.

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