Fox is honoring “the grit and bravery our armed forces,” according to Fox Entertainment CEO Rob Wade, by lobbying for better medical and mental health care for veterans, working to end homelessness among veterans, and—oh, wait, no, sorry, none of that.
Instead, Fox is sending 16 celebrities who, the press release says, will “endure some of the harshest, most grueling challenges from the playbook of the actual Special Forces selection process” as part of the reality show Special Forces: The World’s Toughest Test, previously known as Special Forces: The Ultimate Test.
For this show, Fox has gathered together highly respected, A-list celebrities, none of whom are embarrassments to humanity, including Dr. Drew Pinski, Anthony Scaramucci, and Kate Gosselin.
Also participating are fresh faces you definitely haven’t seen on reality TV—assuming you’ve kept your TV off for the past 15 years—including Mel B, Hannah Brown, Tyler Florence, and Kenya Moore.
The rest of the cast who are participating—there’s no competition or elimination element, other than people potentially dropping out—includes a mix of athletes, actors, and singers.
They are Danny Amendola, Dwight Howard, Montell Jordan, Gus Kenworthy, Nastia Liukin, Carli Lloyd, Beverley Mitchell, Mike Piazza, and Jamie Lynn Spears.
This “social experiment” (wow, something else that’s new!) is actually an import of a UK show.
SAS: Who Dares Wins has aired seven civilian seasons and four celebrity seasons, and has featured the same “ex-special forces operatives” who will guide the American celebrities as the as “Directing Staff”: Remi Adeleke, Mark “Billy” Billingham, Jason “Foxy” Fox, and Rudy Reyes.
Watching them fail by dying—”If you should die, that’s nature’s way of saying you’ve failed,” as one of the DS say in the trailer—sounds fun.
But what will it be like watching rich, famous people deal with their own personal demons by being on a TV show and simulating special forces training?
I was curious, and actually planned to review Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test, but because the network is so proud of the show, they offered screeners to TV critics “for informational purposes only,” meaning they cannot be used to, you know, review the show. Also the show was missing from my screening account and a publicist didn’t respond when I asked about it, so *shrug emoji.*
As of Tuesday night, Fox has also not yet added the show to the unscripted TV section of their show page, perhaps preferring to keep it a surprise.
However, I did remember that, during a Television Critics Association summer press tour press conference in early September, Mel B. offered some fascinating insight into just why Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test was such a thrilling experience.
1. The cast got closer than the Spice Girls
During the TCA press conference, Mel B. explained that the connection she had with her castmates was at “a different level” than The Spice Girls.
“I thought I had like a glue between Spice Girls, but between us lot, it’s a different level, because you are put in, like, circumstances that you don’t even see on horror movies,” she said.
That different level was so high it was hard to count:
Mel B.: And, you know, can I just say, between—how many are there—was there? There was—was it 12 or 13 of us?
Dr. Drew: 16.
Carli Lloyd: 16.
Mel B.: It was 16. Oh, my God. The camaraderie that we ended up having between us, like, you can’t—you can’t even explain it.
2. It brought back the magic of childhood
Mel B. said some of the challenges reminded her of being three again:
“You couldn’t walk anywhere, you had to run everywhere.When did you ever do that, apart from when you were three years old, running everywhere? It almost made you regress to being a kid and accepting that the DSs are your parents, and whatever they said, you just do.
3. There was no reading before bed. Or fruit.
Mel B. explains that they were truly deprived, including of reading lamps and contact with producers:
And, like, I don’t think you actually realize until you’re in it that we are literally doing it verbatim. Not as hardcore as the DSs, obviously, but we are stripped of everything. There’s no phones. There’s no, Oh, I want to put my light on and read a book. There’s none of that. It’s like, lights out, everyone asleep; lights on, everybody up. And you have to run everywhere and make sure your uniform is on, check everything else, is everybody up.
And you don’t see a producer. There’s nobody that you can talk to and go, Oh, I think I’ve got a bit of a headache. Oh, I’m hungry. Is there any fruit? There’s none of that shit.
4. They learned new words
Not only did they test themselves physically, but the celebrities were also tested mentally, like by learning the definition of the words “chow” and “time.”
Here’s Mel B. to explain:
I didn’t even know what “chow time” was. I’m like, What does that mean? Chow is we all have to go into a room, and Jamie or whoever is the team leader for that day serves us all. You get one slop, and it’s proper Army slop, and it tastes amazing because you haven’t eaten for hours.
5. Dwight Howard narrating his pooping
Some of the aforementioned running and bonding occurred during toilet time. Again, here’s Mel B. during the press conference:
“You can’t go to the bathroom by yourself. You have to go to the bathroom with a buddy because, in true combat style, if something happens and you’re alone—that’s not how you do it. You have to say to somebody in your barracks, Does anybody need the loo or the bucket or the hole in the floor? Because you have to go with somebody, which is even bizarre in itself. It makes sense to the DSs, but coming from my point of view, unless it’s one of my kids, I don’t want to go to the bathroom with anybody else.”
…Do you know who I went to the bathroom with? Dwight, the worst person to end up in the bathroom with. He was very willing to express and pop off and do all of that, and talk me through what’s happening. You can’t escape because you can’t leave the toilet until they’re done, because you have to run back into your barracks together.
6. The stripping was very, very real
These may be separate activities Mel B. described to the assembled journalists, but perhaps naked tank-flipping sand-rolling was one challenge:
“I think people think when they watch this show that there was extra‑special treatment, or you didn’t have to really strip naked and get in the tank and then roll around in the sand. Yeah, we did. We did everything that we were told to do.
7. It created memories that lasted a lifetime
Rudy Reyes talked during the press conference about friction among the cast, and
Rudy: “I don’t know if—Mel, do you remember when there was just so much friction, just like in real combat, just like how it really goes down in firefights, or sometimes there’s pregnant pauses in the battle, and just as you’re—you let your guard down, boom, you got to get kinetic, boom, you got to go, and you’re always on your toes. Well, it was one of those days. Next thing you know, I find—I’m hearing outside the vehicle some voices getting raised. And, you know, I love that freaking Billy Billingham’s British freaking accent, and I can hear that accent anywhere in the world, and I know that’s Billy Billingham. And so I get outside of the vehicle, and it’s going down. It’s going down with Billy and Danny, and then it seems like it gets squashed. We get back to the rear. Now it’s popping off. All your recruits are about to mutiny. I think Billy and I are going to have to start throwing shots back to back. And then, you know, people were afraid that this thing is running off the rails and we’re going to crash. We got back into the—our barracks, into the command post, and Billy and I were just smiling, and Billy says, That’s exactly where they need to be. They need to be on the edge right there. And all of you came together. All of you worked it out internally. And that’s what this thing is about, dynamic problem‑solving.”
Mel. B: “I’m trying to remember what part you’re talking about.”
Ah, memories! In fairness, Mel also said “there were so many scenarios like that where we were all shaking in our boots, terrified.” Warm memories!
Friday 6th of January 2023
I thought it was all bullsh*t. They started with a 2 mile jog in 100 degree heat, yet they arrive....And not one of them was even sweating.
Friday 6th of January 2023
I was totally hooked on this show. It was interesting to see things like Tyler Florence being a big blowhard. Some of the back stories are really interesting. I didn't know about Jamie Lynn having to save her child. I knew Kate G would be out first. Sad she got hurt, but glad she's off the show. I like seeing the challenges and wondering if I could do them (and some knowing there's no way in hell I could even attempt them). I have respect for the contestants even trying them.
Thursday 5th of January 2023
I thought the show was hilarious, especially when Dwight Howard used the stall next to MelB.! I cannot wait for the next episode, watching celebrities being put in uncomfortable situations is oddly pleasing to me !
Tuesday 3rd of January 2023
I’ve watched one of the early seasons with non-celebs and it was pretty raw and intense. The Special Forces instructors, some of the same guys who are on this version, didn’t let up or give in to their recruits.