In Stars On Mars, William Shatner hosts from “Mission Control” on Earth as 12 celebrities embark on a 24-day “mission” to see who would survive on Mars. The last celebrity standing will be called “The Brightest Star In The Galaxy,” for whatever that’s worth. The celebrities are: Lance Armstrong, Natasha Leggero, Marshawn Lynch, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Adam Rippon, Ronda Rousey, Tom Schwartz, Richard Sherman, Tinashe, Porsha Williams Guobadia, Tallulah Willis and Ariel Winter.
STARS ON MARS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: As we see a fake Mars outpost in the middle of the Australian Outback, William Shatner intones, “In the year 2023, 12 celebrities embarked on an unprecedented experiment.”
The Gist: When they first get onto the base, clad in somewhat realistic-looking space suits, the celebs go through “decontamination” (a blast of air) before entering in the main area. The idea is that their rations are low and they’re going to have to do things like grow their own food, stay active in an environment that has lighter gravity than Earth, and be ready for emergency missions at a moment’s notice.
As the celebs are introduced to each other, Winter gets intimidated by Armstrong, whom she claims is “a real astronaut.” Yes, she’s confusing him with Neil Armstrong, who is a) dead and b) walked on the moon two years before Lance Armstrong was born.
The first thing Shatner tells the group to do is vote for a base commander, who will be in charge for 48 hours; Lynch takes it when he finds out that he gets a private room and bathroom. There’s immediately an emergency; the 12th team member, Leggero, is stuck in a shuttle craft and running out of air. Armstrong and Rousey are sent out to retrieve the comedian.
Then, in the middle of the night, there’s an even bigger emergency: A dust storm has knocked down the base’s comms link to Earth, and the entire team, save for Lynch and “technical specialist” Tallulah Willis, are sent out to raise all the satellites and reestablish contact.
At the end of that mission — and at the end of every 48 hours — the group decides who is “mission critical.” The one who isn’t deemed to be that is sent home.
Our Take: Do you want us to review Stars On Mars seriously or just take it for what it is, which is basically the aforementioned Surreal Life with everyone wearing silly-looking jumpsuits or warmup jackets with their names on it and doing their “missions” on the surface of “Mars.” There’s really nothing at stake except for pride, and the fact that even seemingly busy celebs like Armstrong and Williams can take 24 days out of their schedules to do this show boggles the mind.
But really, this show doesn’t pretend to be at all serious. Even Shatner is in on the gag, making goofy remarks from his “Mission Control” seat as he doles out commands and mission assignments. The voice of the computer is just about as snarky, and it makes us think that it was added in during post-production in response to whatever was going on inside the “base”.
The challenges take teamwork and listening, and a little bit of physical ability, of course, but there is no real danger, and it doesn’t seem like the people who sit on the sidelines and pretend to help, like Leggero, Rippon and Mintz-Plasse did, are really under any kind of scrutiny. In fact, we think that the people who actually take the tasks seriously, like Armstrong, don’t quite get how silly this whole exercise in.
Lynch was the perfect first commander because he calls everyone “family,” curses up a storm, takes naps in his commander’s cabin and loves to lord over the fact that he’s the boss of his buddy and former Seattle Seahawks teammate Richard Sherman. Again, he knows what the gig is and acts appropriately, even goofing on Armstrong because he “just rode a bike”. Will the other commanders be as easygoing? Who knows? But hopefully they all realize that this is basically a game.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: After the eliminated celeb goes home, Lynch and Sherman argue about the mission, with Sherman bringing up their old coach Pete Carroll in the process. Were they talking about that Super Bowl they lost at the last minute to the Patriots?
Sleeper Star: We’ll give this to Porsha because no matter what she does, she’s in full makeup, hair, lashes and nails.
Most Pilot-y Line: It’s kind of hard to pinpoint a goofy line or situation in a show that’s supposed to be goofy and clunky.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Is Stars On Mars dumb as bricks? Absolutely. But it’s also a cheesy good time, which is something people are always looking for when they don’t want to tax their brains too much.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.