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Claim to Fame is still a star in season 2, even without spoilers

Claim to Fame is still a star in season 2, even without spoilers
The celebrity relatives at Claim to Fame season 2's first guess off: Shayne, J.R., Monay, Jane, Hugo, and Carly (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

Claim To Fame, my favorite new reality competition format of last year, is back, with a new group of celebrity relatives competing to figure out each other’s identities.

Its success has led to an upgrade. Claim to Fame has moved from its cramped hillside mansion into a more-famous movie and TV house, one that rather resembles the Bachelor and Bachelorette mansion inside, just without the candles and desperation.

For a moment, I also thought we also got a Jonas brother upgrade, as I didn’t recognize Frankie with his expanded hair and facial hair.

Yes, Kevin Jonas and his lesser-known brother Frankie are back as hosts, and so are the jokes. Frankie, who may be going by Franklin now, says at one point, “maybe you have three brothers who started a band without you”

After watching the season premiere, it is clear to me that Claim to Fame season two (ABC, Mondays at 8) will be just as good, if not exceed the high bar its predecessor set for guessing, strategizing, and drama. And episode one ramps up in a way that season one’s did not, and it has me craving episode two so far.

Two people in sport coats standing outside at night
Kevin Jonas, Frankie Jonas, and their new hair on Claim to Fame season 2 episode 1 (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

Of the 12 new celebrity-adjacent cast members, several look extremely familiar—for me, it’s Carly, Chris, Cole, apparently just names that start with C—though no one is quite on the level of Simone Biles’ sister Adria.

While the show seems to have a little more money than it had to play with last year, Claim to Fame’s game is, so far, thankfully unchanged.

Each episode has a challenge, and the winner gets immunity and a clue about one other person. The two at the bottom of the challenge are at risk of being in the guess-off.

The rest of the house votes to send one of them in to the guess-off. That person gets a chance to save themselves and eliminate someone else, by calling out someone and guessing their celebrity relative. If they’re wrong, they’re out; if they’re right, the person who’s relative they identified goes home.

The format means we find out one celebrity relative every episode, which is a great, dramatic pay off, even when it’s the most obvious.

And that’s just the celebrity reveal: the players sometimes have dramatic reactions, too, and the premiere is no exception: I was shocked, and then I was even more shocked. (Tuesday morning, I’ll update this story with a spoiler-filled recap.)

There is one welcome change to the editing from last year: The producers have decided not to spoil the guessing game for us, like they did last year. In season one, several celebrities just told us who they were related to, which ruined the fun, so I’m glad to see that’s gone.

Alas, they couldn’t resist some minor spoilers, and by that I don’t mean the contestants guessing and throwing out ideas about, say, the clue wall. (The clue wall does seem to be very heavy-handed this year, and I hope the clues aren’t too obvious to compensate for not revealing celebrity identities to us.)

A person standing outside at night in a blue gown
Carly reveals her two truths and a lie during Claim to Fame season 2’s opening cocktail party. (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

The answers the episode gives up come during the opening cocktail party. It ends with two truths and a lie, in which the celebrity relatives introduce themselves by identifing their relationship, that person’s career, and the biggest award they’ve won. We’re let in on some of the lies, but thankfully, it’s not too many of them.

The strategy doesn’t really ramp up in episode one, but there is some great comedy, like one person identifying their relative’s highest award as a Critics Choice Award, and someone else having no idea what that even is.

The cast members say ridiculous things, like Hugo declaring, “I am very smart. I am an engineer, and I am studying both electrical engineering and math.” Yes, those things should really help in a pop culture guessing game.

Meanwhile, Carly thinks Monay is related to Steve Harvey, and her evidence is Monay’s “big eyes.” Oh no.

Two rows of people sitting outside at night
The celebrity relatives at Claim to Fame season 2’s first guess off: Shayne, J.R., Monay, Jane, Hugo, and Carly (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

The first challenge is a talent show, which gives the cast a chance to define themselves as individuals, or severely injure themselves.

The decision about the bottom two is left to the talent show’s live audience, and how much they react to each performance.

This is some Drag Race-level sketchiness—who is actually in this audience, after all?—and let’s just say the episode doesn’t make it seem like the challenge’s winner got the biggest reaction.

I just don’t like that method of choosing the two celebrities who are put into the guess-off, just because it’s more out of their control than the show’s other challenges.

In Claim to Fame season one, the challenges often seemed, well, budget, but also delivered both clues and considerable drama. I look forward to seeing if they’ve gotten an upgrade too, and whether the strategizing ramps up more than just people sharing a few observations with each other.

And I cannot wait to see who some of these people are related to, and how they figure out each other’s identities. Welcome back, Claim to Fame! I’m so glad you’re still recognizable.

‘Megastars and meltdowns’: season 2, episode 1 spoilers

Two people standing face to face, outside at night, with lit flowers and foliage behind them
Hugo prepares to guess Carly’s celebrity relative, Tom Hanks, on Claim to Fame 2 episode 1 (Photo by John Fleenor/ABC)

Claim to Fame’s season 2 premiere was, overall, solid, my quibbles with the first challenge aside.

But friends, the way I screamed during those last few minutes!

There isn’t too much action in the house, especially because we’re still getting to know people, and while there are some groups that meet, it’s not clear these are alliances or friendships or what.

The most telling conversation happens when Chris and Carly look at the wall together. Carly seems especially eager to shift attention away. Chris mentions Apollo 13; Carly diverts to Buzz Aldrin.

When Chris says he has nothing, but then points to the green bench and says, “We do have the Forrest Gump thing.” Carly immediately says, “That could be anything, though,” and the reality TV cymbals of doom clash to make sure we clock that.

Chris notes “She’s heavily deflecting,” and Carly even says, “Tom Hanks is too big to be” on this show. Chris then points out what makes Claim to Fame so great: “Tom Hanks may be too big for this house, but his celebrity relative isn’t.”

Among the other clues we get are Chris telling us his celebrity relative is a singer, and says “I look a lot like him, too.” The clue Travis got for his talent show win is about Shayne, and the rebus puzzle had a crown, a question mark face, plane route, an outline of the USA, an ampersand, and then a play button, a deer/stag, and wheat.

I’m so glad the editing didn’t give it away, though that did give away that I’m a dummy because I have not yet figured it out!

Shayne thinks Travis is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s son, saying “he’s literally a little genius” because of his ability to list 100 digits of pi during the talent show. Plus, there’s the “space stuff on the clue wall … and he looks like Neil deGrasse Tyson,” she said.

Chris, meanwhile, wants J.R. in the guess-off to call out Hugo, and suggests Buzzz Aldrin. “That’s the connection I needed,” J.R. says, and then writes down “Buzz Aldrin” because he didn’t know know who Buzz Aldrin is. I won’t make too much fun of him, though, because he tore a ligament while attempting to shoot baskets in the talent show—this is a dangerous game!

Chris also suggests Carly was related to Jim Carrey. Meanwhile, Carly is helping Hugo while Travis is listening, and suggested Monay looks like Steve Harvey and, as I mentioned above, her evidence is mostly Monay’s “big eyes.”

Carly thinks that assist means she won’t be called out. “I honestly think that I am safe,” she says.

The Guess-Off is still held outside, though not next to a pool, and the tiered, curved couches are back. The cast votes, and Hugo is voted in as guesser.

Hugo calls out Carly, and she’s already upset: “I helped you. I helped you!” she says.

When it’s time to guess her celebrity relative, Hugo guesses Tom Hanks.

There’s a new, bigger, fancier screen for the actual reveal. (Speaking of screens: did anyone else notice the screen behind them during the talent show glitching? I was trying to figure out if that was a clue or just the show’s budget straining.)

The tension mounts, and then Carly bursts into tears because, incredibly, Hugo was right: Carly is Tom Hanks’ niece.

“Everything that you hear about Tom is true; he is the nicest guy in Hollywood, and I just absolutely love him,” she said in the confessional.

And then, well, she became not the nicest person on the set of Claim to Fame.

“I’m just a little shocked,” she cries. “I freakin’ helped you.” She tells Hugo “I swear I hope you go home because of that” but then also adds, “but he was smart, he played smart.”

It seems she’s upset, understandably, and also respects the game, which I appreciate. But wait, no! The surprises and drama are going to keep ramping up.

That’s because Carly has beef with the producers of Claim to Fame. “His freakin’ clues are so freakin’ obvious. The freakin’ bench that’s the freakin’ poster of freakin’ Foreest Gump? Are you kidding me? Why a bench? Why a bench?” she says, crying, walking up the stairs.

You know, she’s not wrong, because that is such an iconic image. And that was one issue with season one, with some clues being super-obvious and others not so much.

But Carly isn’t critiquing the game design. She’s just pissed. “Even Gabriel found that out, he’s not even smart,” she says, and the editing cuts to a Gabriel reaction that I do not actually believe was him hearing her. The editing wants us to believe they can all hear everything she’s saying, but that seems unlikely.

Then Carly reveals the real reasons she’s upset as she packs her clothes. “And I didn’t even get to do any challenges. … I don’t deserve this. I should have more camera time! I should be here longer.”

More camera time! Oh, how much I howled at that. Despite the hilarity of this temper-tantrum, I do appreciate the honesty about why she was on the show—why I’m sure a lot of the players are there, to get attention for themselves, if not $100,000.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion: your turn

I think of writing about television as the start of a conversation, and I value your contributions to that conversation. We’ve created a community that connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

To share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space, I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to those rules.

Happy discussing!


Sunday 2nd of July 2023

Reading this, I was able to figure out Shayne's rebus. I won't say it here to keep the mystique going, but my reply to myself was "HOLY S***! I KNOW WHO SHE IS!" LOL I'll just say this... It's not a deer, it's a buck.

Busy Bee

Saturday 1st of July 2023

I figured out most of Shayne's rebus puzzle. Are we allowed to share that here? I don't want to ruin or spoil anything for fellow viewers.


Sunday 2nd of July 2023

@Andy Dehnart, I'll just spoil/decode two symbols.

The question mark face should make regular appearances as "who"

It's not a stag, it's a buck.

Andy Dehnart

Saturday 1st of July 2023

Thanks for asking! Feel free to share, but I’d suggest labeling the comment as a spoiler for that puzzle so anyone who doesn’t want to know yet can skip it!


Wednesday 28th of June 2023

What do you think went in to the decision to cast Carly as 'Tom Hanks' niece' and not 'Rita Wilson's niece', especially considering her mom is Rita's sister? I realize Tom is probably a much bigger get for the show, and maybe who Carly tells people about first because it carries more clout. But if she had said she was related to Rita she probably would have stayed longer! Maybe that in itself was the issue-does Rita have any role iconic enough for producers to use as for clues like they did last season with Whoopie and Sister Act/Ghost and Kiki with Akilah and the Bee?


Thursday 29th of June 2023

@Adam, I thought the same thing about why she wasn’t cast as Rita’s celeb relative. She definitely could’ve flown under the radar longer, but idk about what iconic film roles Rita was in either…


Tuesday 27th of June 2023

That meltdown was wild! I felt bad for her until she continued screaming after moving inside. Then I laughed and couldn't stop. I think I know 2 celeb relatives and have a guess on a third. But for the rest, I'm stumped. And I'm glad we don't know the relatives of some. I like being surprised or guessing myself.

Andy Dehnart

Tuesday 27th of June 2023

I’m curious, without naming them, how do you know the two? Is it just recognizing them? (I think I recognize Chris, for example.) Or did the show point out who they might be?


Tuesday 27th of June 2023

I thought it was interesting that Carly said she was Tom Hanks niece when she is actually his niece-in-law which you rarely hear. She’s the niece of Tom’s wife Rita Wilson. Her meltdown when realizing she was eliminated was over the top for a 39yo woman. Seriously, she should be embarrassed.