"From the commercials, Armed and Famous looks like the worst trash reality TV: Five “celebrities” — if you can call them that — are trained as officers and then put on the nightshift as reserve members of the Muncie Police Department. The most you’d expect would be stars acting like prima donna knuckleheads; the worst would be that they’d screw up and either get themselves or someone else killed.
Actually, astoundingly, that’s not what happens. The seven-episode series (8 p.m. Wednesdays beginning today, with a second episode at 8 p.m. this Thursday only, WISH-Channel 8) turns out to have brains, a sense of humor and even some heart.
Say whatever you want about Erik Estrada (Ponch from CHiPS), LaToya Jackson (dubiously described as both singer and author), Jack Osbourne (son of Ozzy), professional skateboarder Jason “Wee-Man” Acuna (Jackass) and Trish Stratus (retired pro wrestler) and you’d be right. But add this: They’re ballsy.
Riding along with the police as an observer is one thing. Putting on the uniform, carrying a gun and going into hostile situations is something else entirely. Muncie isn’t Gary, but it’s not some sleepy small town, either. In 2005, Muncie had 314 violent crimes, including one murder, 74 rapes and 174 aggravated assaults. All it takes is one idiot who wants to show how tough he is and before you can say “canceled” you’d have the national media swarming the city to cover a funeral, commentators declaring the end of civilization and terrorists hating our freedoms even more.
But these gun-totin’ F-list celebs are determined not to let that happen. And even though LaToya Jackson can’t figure out how to make change in a Laundromat and expects a tablecloth and fingerbowls at Texas Roadhouse, she and the others appear to make a serious effort to get through the training and actually do work hard.
As you might imagine, they meet up with the usual assortment of lowlifes — the guy so big he requires two sets of handcuffs, a drunken driver, a guy with claw hands and the drug-dealing granny who’s otherwise delighted to meet Ponch. But there’s also the family whose Christmas tree catches on fire, burning them out of their home. Everyone gets out safely, and they’re comforted — touchingly — by Trish Stratus. “Their worst day,” her partner says. “Our everyday.”
Fake reality may be the province of Hollywood, but genuine moments can be found anywhere.