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Stars Earn Stripes - Season 1


Combat is by all accounts terrifying, dangerous and exhausting. Shooting guns, riding in helicopters and blowing shit up is, on the other hand, fun. NBC’s “reality-based” miniseries Stars Earn Their Stripes gives a cast of actors and athletes a small taste of the rigors of (simulated) combat and a huge dose of the fun and excitement of making things explode. All the while kitting them out like the U.S. Navy DEVGRU and pairing them with professional uniformed operators. How great is that? That depends if you’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize or, as Farago likes to say, not . . .

Nine Nobel Peace Prize winners are speaking out against a new NBC competition series they say treats military maneuvers like athletic events.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the other Nobel laureates protested in an open letter that the show, “Stars Earn Stripes,” glorifies war and armed violence.

‘”It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining.” . . .

To that end, the group’s implored NBC to pull “Stars Earn Stripes” from the air, calling it “a massive disservice to those who live and die in armed conflict and suffer its consequences long after the guns of war fall silent.”

“This show is not a glorification of war, but a glorification of service,” NBC responded in a statement. [Full text of the Nobel winners’ letter below.]

In other words, the Net’s got the backs of reality TV maestro and Falklands War (3d Para) vet Mark Burnett and Dick Wolff of Law & Order fame—until and unless the program fails to make money.

SETS is set to run for one month. It will all be over by the time the fall TV season begins. We’ll have a review soon.

Meanwhile, we can tell you that all the celebs are predictably buff and and suitably amped. Some of them are overcome by the brotherhood and sisterhood of (simulated) arms—in that “the most important thing in show biz is sincerity; once you’ve learned to fake it you’ve got it made” kind of way.

To which the operators respond with restrained but genuine warmth.

They’re a collection of active and retired SEALs, Green Berets, Marines and Navy Corpsmen (and one civilian SWAT commander). And they’re all suitably badass. They get their jobs done with military efficiency, training up their celebrity recruits and avoiding unnecessary chatter while the cameras are running.

In short, SETS is a mud-stained, explosion-wracked and bullet-riddled Thank You letter to our men and women in uniform. This quiet efficiency probably drove the producers crazy, but it emphasizes the point that military service isn’t about stardom, it’s about service.

At one point in the premiere, a celebrity asks her military counterpart the completely inappropriate question. “Have you ever killed anybody?” The operator neither regales her with war stories or embarrasses her for the stupid question. He just shakes his head with disappointment and gives her the dignified answer, “We don’t talk about that.”

‘Nuff said? Maybe not.



August 13, 2012

An Open Letter to Mr. Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, General Wesley Clark (ret.), Producer Mark Burnett and others involved in “Stars Earn Stripes”:

During the Olympics, touted as a time for comity and peace among nations, millions first learned that NBC would be premiering a new “reality” TV show. The commercials announcing “Stars Earn Stripes” were shown seemingly endlessly throughout the athletic competition, noting that its premier would be Monday, August 13, following the end of the Olympic games.

That might seem innocuous since spectacular, high budget sporting events of all types are regular venues for airing new products, televisions shows and movies. But “Stars Earn Stripes” is not just another reality show. Hosted by retired four-star general Wesley Clark, the program pairs minor celebrities with US military personnel and puts them through simulated military training, including some live fire drills and helicopter drops. The official NBC website for the show touts “the fast-paced competition” as “pay[ing] homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services.”

It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining.

Real war is down in the dirt deadly. People—military and civilians—die in ways that are anything but entertaining. Communities and societies are ripped apart in armed conflict and the aftermath can be as deadly as the war itself as simmering animosities are unleashed in horrific spirals of violence. War, whether relatively short-lived or going on for decades as in too many parts of the world, leaves deep scars that can take generations to overcome – if ever.

Trying to somehow sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition further calls into question the morality and ethics of linking the military anywhere with the entertainment industry in barely veiled efforts to make war and its multitudinous costs more palatable to the public.

The long history of collaboration between militaries and civilian media and entertainment—and not just in the United States—appears to be getting murkier and in many ways more threatening to efforts to resolve our common problems through nonviolent means. Active-duty soldiers already perform in Hollywood movies, “embedded” media ride with soldier in combat situations, and now NBC is working with the military to attempt to turn deadly military training into a sanitized “reality” TV show that reveals absolutely nothing of the reality of being a soldier in war or the consequences of war. What is next?

As people who have seen too many faces of armed conflict and violence and who have worked for decades to try to stop the seemingly unending march toward the increased militarization of societies and the desensitization of people to the realities and consequences of war, we add our voices and our support to those protesting “Stars Earn Stripes.” We too call upon NBC stop airing this program that pays homage to no one, and is a massive disservice to those who live and die in armed conflict and suffer its consequences long after the guns of war fall silent.


Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize, 1984

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize, 1977

Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize, 2003

President José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize, 1996

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize, 1980

President Oscar Arias Sanchez, Nobel Peace Prize, 1987

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Prize, 1992

Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1977

Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize, 2006



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  1. Uh.. Don’t many of the Olympic sports originate from old Greek military exercises? Javelin? Shot put? To say nothing of modern pentathlon?

    What kind of idiotic drivel is this?

    • Ironic, right?

      As if javelins were just for show.

      Never mind also that FENCING and ARCHERY also use weapons that human beings originally devised for use against each other.

  2. it’s entertainment. just like a stallone movie or a first person shooter game. not to be taken seriously. the thing that these type of programs and civilian firearms training classes miss out on is the team nature of the military. we lived together 24-7 which gives you a bond and insight into your buddies that is not there in any other program. that bonding and knowledge of each other is a force multiplier that’s not available to civilians and actors.

  3. Which event in the Ancient Olympics was not related to war-fighting? The hoplitodromos was even ran in full armor and a shield.

  4. Wouldn’t it be great to see USPSA-style/3-gun shooting in the Olympics? Or maybe 600-yard rifle?

  5. Unformed Operators?
    Otherwise WGAF what these Commies think?
    This is simply an attempt to extort money from NBC, a case of Commies eating their young to be sure but a perfect illustration of Honor Among Thieves.
    Virtually Every sport is a PC version of warfare, where PPL do not die.
    Desmond TuTu had no problems killing PPL for REAL, his hypocrisy is monstrous
    This is a typical reality show, 90% of it is faked, guns “fire” yet no empties are ejected from the gun, just like all the rest, but the History Channel aint got enough dollars or exposure to go after.

  6. honestly, IMO this show would be more interesting if it was JUST the military folks showcasing exceptional American military skills. btw the photo looks corny too. the overt lack of Olympic history knowledge is quite glaring and i def agree with the other posters regarding that as well.

  7. Who CARES what any ‘Nobel Prize’ winner has to say?

    Didn’t Obama get one of those?

    Pretty much renders them irrelevant.

    • It becomes even more laughable when you consider why he got it: for promising transparency in government.

      Man, if I wanted a Nobel, screw cancer research or inventing a new clean energy or saving hundreds of kids from starvation… lying to 312 million people is easier.

        • RF, fix the buggy edit button. My post should read

          Actually it was “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”. Still quite a laughable reason, when you consider he had only been president for 9 months, and was also a member of the Illinois senate which doesnt really do anything on a international level. Affirmative action in action.

        • What’s laughable is that he was nominated after eleven days in office…

          What’s interesting is under his Nobel Prize biography it says his “Field” is World organizing, arms control and disarmament.

    • Obama got his Nobel for “not being a Bush” so apparently, it’s not that difficult to get one.

      Hey, where’s mine?

    • There are some pretty smart Nobel Prize winners who I would be glad to listen to. Nobel Peace Prize winners, on the other hand, are mostly a collection of jokers. The Swedes gave the Peace Prize selection to the Norwegians because they (the Swedes) really hate them.

  8. Just wait ’til they hear about 3-gun.

    OMG!! People really do that?!! And it’s been going on, HOW LONG?!! Why aren’t I informed of these things? Where are my doting sycophants with whom I surround myself who are supposed to supply me with a clue?

  9. “Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining”

    Spoken like someone who has never used det cord.

  10. I haven’t watched it yet, but I’ve heard several people ranting about it. “Glorifies warfighting while we ignore our real veterans with issues” is a common thread. Also “while people are actually dying” is another one.

    I think it’s in poor taste. It’s not just a competition, it’s a competition that wraps itself in the flag while doing nothing of substance to help those that it glorifies. Yes, I know they’re playing for charity or something, but this show would never have gotten made if it wasn’t making someone, somewhere some serious cash, cash that will put the “charitable contributions” to shame.

    • Honestly, Matt in FL, I don’t see what’s wrong with the producers making money — it’s a capitalist country — or a competition that “wraps itself up in the flag.” And while it’s absolutely true that veterans have problems, it’s not up to the show to fix them. TV producers produce TV shows. That’s all they do. Doctors and therapists, hospitals, the VA and the nation, collectively, are supposed to take care of the veterans. People who challenge the show because of their concern for the veterans are often people who have never given a veteran anything, even a kind word.

      Arguing that the show shouldn’t be on TV while soldiers are dying is like saying that medical programs like House shouldn’t be on TV while people are dying of cancer or medical malpractice. I don’t think it makes sense.

      People who object to the exploitation of the current wars for profit should first look to the news media. The only time I see dead soldiers on TV or periodicals is when the news madia runs them, for money.

      • Ralph: Yeah, I don’t know. Your points are all perfectly valid, and I agree with them. It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I can’t really explain it.

    • I agree Matt. I dont agree with it and certainly dont like it, but it is a capitalist country we live in.

      It reminds me of the Katy Perry music video. I personally believe that is one of the most disgusting examples of war propaganda.

      Perhaps I feel this way because I am vehemently opposed to the War on Terror.

  11. With all due respect to Archbishop Tutu and the other Nobel prize winners….really?…with all that’s wrong with the world, this is what you choose to mobilize and protest about? One must really “jump the shark” leading an anti-climatic life after winning the prize if this is what gets them riled up. Let’s protest Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, John Wayne movies, Mail Call, The Deadliest Warrior… here’s a pitch for a show…. Nobel Prize Winners Earn Their Stripes, with R Lee Ermey recreating his “Gunny Hartman” character. The pilot epidsode begins with Bishop Tuto attempting to navigate an obstacle course as Gunny Hartman barks:
    “Are you quitting on me Bishop? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy —-ing walrus-looking piece of —! Get the —- off of my obstacle! Get the fuck down off of my obstacle! NOW! MOVE IT! Or I’m going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Bishop Tutu!, IF IT SHORT-DICKS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO! “

  12. I guess nobody told Desmond Tutu about Biathlon and how Finns used soldiers w/ski to fight the Russians.

    Also…Nobel Peace Prize winners against the glorification of the military, is the biggest “dog bites man” type story ever. Well except Henry Kissinger? I bet he thinks thos show is kinda cool.

  13. I agree with Archbishop Tuto. Cancel it. Replace it with Nobel Prize Winners Earn Their Stripes with R Lee Ermey. The pilot episode begins with Archbishop Tuto attempting to navigate the obstacle course as Ermey barks:

    “Oh that’s right, Archbishop… don’t make any —-ing effort to get to the top of the —-ing obstacle. If God would have wanted you up there he would have miracled your ass up there by now, wouldn’t he? “

  14. compair this photo to yesterday’s bridezilla photo and you can clearly see the difference.

    Only the black guy in front has his finger on the trigger, everyone else is showing good gun handling techniques by NOT pointing them at each other as well as keeping the fingers off the triggers.

    training makes all the difference.

  15. Only reason I would watch this show: Give Terry Crews a couple AA12s and have him re-enact that scene from the expendables.

  16. Desmond Tutu and Wesley Clarke can kiss my white ass. Hell yes the Olympics began to showcase war-fighting skill until it got pussified with water ballet and beach volly ball (not that I’m complaining, especially about the aforementioned beach volly ball). I’ve never heard a warrior, and I am both the son and father of warriors, glorify war or kiilling. They glorify the bond that warriors share and the acts of heroism they make in defense of one another and the innocents they protect. They do glorify their skill as warriors, but never as killers. because that is not what they are. They are protectors; of our constitution, of innocent people, our way of life, of freedom, and of one-another. Thank God for them and those like them. I do so every day.

  17. Judging by a list of recent winners, the whole purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize is to glorify asshattery. I’d like to think that Alfred Nobel would blow the damn thing up if he was still alive.

  18. After a certain corporatist, warmonger, banking president won the nobel peace prize and subsequently deployed 30,000 plus troops to escalate a unwinnable war in afghanistan, i stopped taking the award seriously a long time ago.

    • I think Yasser Arafat winning was ufficient to poison te prize for all time. And Menchu was later exposed as a giant fraud.

  19. People—military and civilians—die in ways that are anything but entertaining.

    A lot of people consider the various videos out there to be entertaining.

  20. How things are a ‘changing’! Average civilians around the world increasingly want full-empowerment and rights just like the privileged elite have at their disposal. Average civilians know government serves itself and can’t (or will not) protect people during the growing times of turmoil which government itself is creating. Guns are going mainstream. Soon all housewives and mall employees will want to own guns and carry them everywhere. Leadership sets the example and governments are arming up against their own people and going fascist police state. The new new communists and the cultural institutions have sought to destroy the old traditional values and order of society to break it down and apart to then re-build it their way. I suspect the elites have unleashed forces they don’t fully understand and can control.

  21. Watched it on last night.

    The show is decent as-it-is, but it could be better, if they lost the annoying female host, and some of the ridiculous bombast. The show would be much better as a quieter, slower-paced affair rather than this “Action! Explosions!” caricature. The contestants, to their credit, took their cues from their military mentors, and stayed hard-working, stayed focused. Must have been annoying for the producers that there was no opportunity for shit-stirring.

    Too bad the media has panned this show, now I feel almost forced to watch it, just to annoy them.

    Rating: OK, but a lot of wasted potential.

  22. Truth be told, I can see both sides, and I don’t have any strong feelings one way or the other.

    Hey, at least their reasoning isn’t “it has people using evil, scary GUNS.”

  23. Forget the Nobel laureates (many of whom I respect a great deal). I think this show trivializes what our men and women in combat, especially our special operators, do for this country. I suppose a bunch of them agreed to be in it, and I know that “Top Gun” got people into recruiting centers, so maybe there’s a silver lining. But Todd Palin et al aren’t doing jack-doodle. They’re playing war with cool toys and next to zero possibility of death.

    The whole “paying homage” angle has been used before. That’s how the first “Call of Duty” game was billed. That’s how every post-“Private Ryan” war film gets away with amazing amounts of gore. You want war porn, fine. Just don’t dress it up in the “honoring our brave veterans” cloak.

  24. As a vet who has had a buddy killed and a close friend wounded I find this show disgusting. I don’t care if their flashing about cool guns or not, its sickening.

  25. “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I only love that which they defend.” – Tolkien

  26. Todd Palin can be my fire team buddy any time – old due FTW. Lachey was also surprisingly decent – smart enough to listen carefully to his mentor. Dean Cain looks like a tacticool idiot.

  27. I had low expectations for the show, and watched it with mixed feelings… the “over-the-top” style of the way it’s edited, musical score, etc. was a little odd. Along with the awkward questioning / commentary by the female host.

    That being said, the celebrities didn’t make themselves out to be complete idiots, and did a pretty admirable job listening to their mentors. A good selection of charities, including the Wounded Warrior Project.

    General Clark and the operators are the real stars of the show. Each one was a class act – no hot-headed, Combat Missions-esque Scott Helveston (RIP) types. It was great seeing them in action, demonstrating the skills of a professional.

    Guess I’ll have to keep watching… for now.


    What did BOTH Black dudes have be rescued from the water?! You’d think they’d give the celebs some more training about how to swim / float with all that gear after a jump from the heli. I could hear the collective groaning of the entire US military’s African American servicemen and servicewomen.

  28. Speaking of Olympics: In the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm, one of the events was the Modern Pentathlon that included horsemanship, fencing, pistol shooting, swimming and running.

    And one of the competitors in that game was none other than then-LT George S. Patton. 😉

  29. HA!!!

    Because of these nannies, I now have a new show to watch!!! I would never have heard of this one if not for it making the news here!

    Thanks whiners!!!

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