In case you missed it, ABC has announced the celebrity lineup for its reboot of the ’70s TV extravaganza The Superstars. And one thing is immediately clear from that announcement: The word “superstar” ain’t what it used to be.
Before we get to those names, here’s a quick refresher course for anyone too young to remember the glorious slab of network cheese that ABC drizzled on Americans back in the Carter era. Each week, a strange group of professional athletes would show up at some beach resort in snug nylon shorty shorts and tank tops (this was before Richard Simmons’ heyday, mind you) and compete in an even stranger assortment of sporting competitions: paddling a rubber float the length of an Olympic swimming pool, the 100-yard dash, weightlifting, and, the coup de grace, the obstacle course – a Rube Goldbergy gauntlet that looked as ornate as the Obama girls’ new White House swing set.
The actual events were pretty uneventful. No, what made the show catnip to any kid watching at home was the eclectic group of guests gathered at this televised cocktail party: Lou Ferrigno, Mark Gastineau, O.J. Simpson. It was like the Olympics if the Olympics were run by Larry Flynt. Soon, there was even a celebrity pseudo-spin-off called Battle of the Network Stars, which was hosted by Howard Cosell and always seemed to involve Gabe Kaplan to a weirdly obsessive degree. The premise of that show was to pit the stars of the big three networks’ biggest prime-time shows against each other. An awesome premise, which is almost impossible to imagine today. I mean, can you even picture McSteamy throwing a javelin against Ben Linus from Lost? Their agents would keel over!
Now, ABC has decided to relaunch The Superstars, and when Ifirst heard the idea, I have to admit, I was as giddy as the kid I wasback in the day of the original. The thought of seeing Yao Mingpaddling an inflatable kayak in a swimming pool lane between MannyRamirez and Roger Federer would have been priceless. But today, when ABC unveiled the names of its superstars, I got thesinking feeling that the show wouldn’t be all that I’d hoped for. Itturns out the big marquee attraction is Terrell Owens (pictured, left), the NFL widereceiver who doesn’t bother trying all that hard in real games,never mind the sort of exhibition ones that will be featured on theshow.
Actually, there will be eight professional athletes paired witheight luminaries of more questionable provenance and star wattage. Inaddition to Owens, the pros are hot-headed former baseball player JeffKent, ex-hoopster Robert Horry, crash-and-burn skiier Bode Miller,tennis star Jennifer Capriati, the WNBA’s Lisa Leslie, soccerexhibitionist Brandi Chastain, and freeskier (whatever that is) KristiLeskinen. Depressing, right? It’s like a D-list decathlon.
Well, hold on. Get a load of their non-famous teammates: former MissUSA Ali Landry, swimmer-turned-actress-turned-where-are-they-nowpersona Estella Warren, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition star Paige Hemmis (pictured, right), Baywatch himbo David Charvet, fellow himbo Dan Cortese (really?), sex-you-up crooner Julio Iglesias Jr., and Dancing With the Stars performer Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
Let’s face it, this is a pretty B-list affair. But if you still care, the show debuts on June 23 at 8 p.m. Will you be watching? And what stars would you like to see on the show?