NBC’s much-hyped reality series “Stars Earn Stripes” has been roundly criticized by military veterans and peace activists alike and on Tuesday night, Stephen Colbert added his voice to the chorus of dissenters.
In a withering segment broadcast in a week in which Colbert is hosting a concert aboard the aircraft carrier/tourist attraction Intrepid, Colbert argued the show isn’t about “honoring the troops” so much as a disingenuous ploy to appeal to males aged 18-34.
Colbert likened host Wesley Clark to the great military leaders of the past, such as Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton, but wasn’t convinced the former Army general has “what it takes to be a Jeff Probst.”
As for former 98 Degrees singer Nick Lachey, who described being on the show as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience for people like myself to step in there and get in the trenches,” Colbert quipped, “Yes, once in a lifetime, other than all the times you could have enlisted.”
He also expressed his skepticism over the repeated claim that the challenges "Stars Earn Stripes" simulated an “authentic war experience.”
“Yes this is real, with real weapons and real ammunition and real jet skis zipping in at the first sign of trouble,” Colbert said. “In fact, this is better than real, because this is war as we imagine it. None of that setting up a checkpoint in local neighborhoods trying to suss out centuries-old tribal conflicts, or engaging in outreach with local religious leaders to effect a stable political environment. It’s just blowing [stuff] up."
And as in a real war, many of the contestants face moments of crippling self-doubt, like when Lachey wondered “Why’d I let my agent talk me into this?”
“I’m sure the 80,000 U.S. soldiers risking their lives in Afghanistan are wondering why they let their agents talk them into that,” Colbert joked. “They really should have taken that guest spot on ‘How I Met Your Mother.’”
As for the group of Nobel laureates who condemned “Stars Earn Stripes” for making war seem like just another sporting event, Colbert wasn’t convinced by the comparison.
“This is nothing like an athletic competition. Those things are dangerous.”
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