ABC’s celebrity guessing game goes awry
Reality TV shows about guessing games are all the rage, as are shows that borrow The moleso it makes sense that ABC combined the two into Claim to famea reality competition between the (slightly) unrecognizable parents of (real!) celebrities.
Make no mistake: Claim to fame is not The molebut more a throwback to mid-2000s reality TV shows that were set entirely in a Hollywood Hills mansion with a budget best described as “good business”, and sometimes with celebrities also best described as “good affair”.
Claim to fame (ABC, Mondays at 10 a.m.) has no actual celebrities except for host Kevin Jonas and his brother Frankie Jonas, who has a long-suffering, totally underused relationship and dynamic, as they spend mostly their screen time reading teleprompters, despite a few promised off-the-cuff moments in their intro to the show.
But (at least some of them) the contestants are actually adjacent to A-list talent — though it’s A-list talent who would never appear on a summer ABC reality show. , but whose likenesses the ABC reality show may use anyway, albeit with a disclaimer: “The use of a particular celebrity’s name and likeness in this series is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and no endorsement or permission by any such celebrity is implied.”
These celebrity parents guess who their fellow celebs are related to, giving Claim to fame the revelation required at the end of each episode, but also the strategy that goes with it.
Waiting for Netflix to actually bring back The mole— come on, Netflix, you filmed the thing last summer, give it to us already! —Claim to fame offers a promising game, despite some confusing choices from the producers.
Celebrity Relatives Guess Celebrity Names
Claim to fameThe game is actually quite simple, even if it’s played out in a way that makes it seem unnecessarily complicated. There is a challenge; the winner gets immunity and the bottom two are vulnerable. The house votes for one of these two, who has to guess the identity of another player’s parent in something called “The Guess Off”, because they’re standing and facing each other, I think.
If the guesser is correct, the other player leaves; if they mess up, they leave and reveal their parent on the way out.
Almost all of this takes place in the mansion, including challenges by a cramped pool that have me daydreaming about the sleek production design of the early days of Big brotherpoor quality challenges.
The players may not be famous themselves, but most of them have reality TV personalities and are fun to watch whether they jokingly accuse someone of being a vampire or find real connection on parts of their lives.
Meanwhile, producers dribble clues: through some of the challenges, through a wall of props in the house, and to the winner of the challenge (who gets a clue about a player of their choice in the form of one Survivor 41-ish easy to solve rebus puzzle).
All of this, plus the introductions to two truths and a lie, is enough to spark a surprising amount of discussion/strategy and bonding/alliances that occur in Claim to famethe first two episodes. Much of the time spent with them hanging around the house talking.
As in The mole, players are given notebooks to record their thoughts, but the producers have given them photos of the cast, as well as at least two pages of printed materials that are affixed to the pages of their books. (It seems to be a copy of everyone’s three introductory facts, i.e. their two truths and one lie.)
The fact that contestants are throwing names to guess each other’s parents is actually interesting, and not like Jenny “vaccines are safe and please vaccinate yourselves and your children” McCarthy throwing out the names of superstars as if one of them appeared on Fox’s dumpster from a reality show, no offense to dumpsters, which are indeed helpful and don’t regularly clear reputations as instigators of insurrection . But I digress.
Alas, the producers and/or the network have made a disappointing decision: they’re just telling us who some of the players’ famous parents are.
Claim to Fame spoils by dropping spoilers
During the two truths and a lie intros, on-screen text tells us which of the players’ statements are lies, so we’re already ahead of everyone else. And then the edit just starts dropping names and some pretty telling details.
(ABC asked critics not to reveal any details contained in the episodes, which is ironic because the episode itself drops spoilers left and right. But until each episode airs, I’ll replace the names spoken on the show by XXXXXX.)
Louise is Simone Biles’ sister and basically looks like her, prompting one of the players to label her “The Layup” – an easy guess if a player ends up down there.
Amara tells everyone that her grandmother won an AVN award, for her performance in an adult film. But her grandmother is actually Whoopi Goldberg, who told Amara, “Be a strong bitch and come back happy.”
We get information that narrows others’ relatives: Brittany’s dad, she says, is “a Super Bowl champion and a Hall of Fame quarterback,” while Logan tells us he’s related to a “very well-known country music star”. In episode two, however, the producers let us know who the Breton father is: Brett Favre.
Spoiling the game for viewers has the effect of…well, spoiling the game for viewers.
It also dilutes player guesswork and analysis. When Logan says he knows who Brittany’s dad is, we know he’s right, because we’ve been told.
Would have The mole tell us who is not The Mole in the first minutes?
The edit also telegraphs who’s going to be voted into The Guess Off, and depending on what catches the eye, it’s pretty obvious what’s next. And then the obvious comes.
I found it much more interesting to watch educated speculation, like whether Maxwell was related to Steven Spielberg or not, and whether some clues pointed directly to that or were completely misinterpreted.
All of these choices, in addition to flattering viewers who just want answers poured into their mouths, probably make editing easier, but it limits play.
Since this show is on ABC, I attribute these choices to some kind of residual fear about what happened to The molea show that even scared its host with its intelligence.
Watching Claim to fameI wanted to be After confused, at least by the identity of the celebrities.
I also wanted more possibilities: allowing the house to select only the bottom two immediately reduces a lot of potential drama. Why not let them vote for anyone except the person with immunity? This would allow strategies and alliances to flourish more, but would also create more complicated play and harder editing.
There’s another choice in the first episode so bad my eyes popped out of my head: a fake interruption from a crew member, who pulls Kevin and Frankie aside to tell them A secret the producers knew. clear already: Maxwell was DQed because he slipped into a phone. The public is smarter than that now, although even Survivor did it recently.
Despite the absurdity, I’m in for Claim to fameand curious to see if and/or how alliances and strategy become more of a part of the game. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a brand new network competition format with so much promise.
Claim to fame offers a promising game, despite some confusing choices from the producers. B+
What works for me:
- The format and the game
- The actors, who are personalities in their own right
What could be better:
- Stop telling us the answers
- Do not put only two players on ejection pending