CBS takes its reality series into the gutter tonight with the debut of Armed and Famous at 8 p.m. ET. A second episode airs tomorrow at 8, and then the series remains on Wednesdays.
Five lame-list celebrities–Jason “Wee Man” Acuña, Erik Estrada, La Toya Jackson, Jack Osbourne, and Trish Stratus–trained with the Muncie, Ind., police department, and then became reserve officers. The show endeared itself to the community and showed CBS’ financial commitment to the project by offering those who were arrested t-shirts that said “I got arrested by a celebrity and all I got is this lousy T-shirt” in exchange for signing an appearance waiver.
The celebrities also bonded with local residents. Most recently, an in-uniform Erik Estrada got into a verbal fight with a local activist who’d been stabbed and was in an ambulance, a confrontation that was photographed by the local paper. Estrada was reportedly upset because the man called him “Emilio Estevez — said he didn’t want to appear on Armed & Famous.”
The police chief told the Muncie Star Press that he talked to Estrada, and says this is a good lesson for him. “The key to the whole thing is that we don’t want to get into a shouting match with anybody. But that’s one of those things you learn as a young policeman. You eventually learn that it’s not effective.”
Despite this, the show’s producer says the series is actually heartwarming. Tom Forman tells Mediaweek, “A show that we all thought would be funny is actually touching. As you watch them, something really happens. They’re giving it their all.”
Critics aren’t exactly convinced. Variety’s Brian Lowry says “the series works best when the faux police make like Acuna and resist the temptation to take themselves too seriously,” but adds that, overall, “it’s hard to foresee this hour doing much beyond killing time.” And Mediaweek’s Marc Berman says, “I expect this kind of drivel from Fox and Mike Darnell…, not from the network with arguably the strongest scripted schedule.”