Claim to fame: Celeb relatives go undercover in desperate reality show |  reality tv

Claim to fame: Celeb relatives go undercover in desperate reality show | reality tv

YYou may have thought that reality television had hit its undeserving mainline of all time with The Masked Singer; a series that had various fading but thirsty celebrities forced to perform karaoke in the vain hope that someone – anyone – would remember who they were. It was excitingly desperate stuff, but the good news is that the reality television industrial complex has just uncovered a brand new layer of desperation. It’s coming to us in the form of ABC’s new series Claim to Fame.

Because Claim to Fame doesn’t actually include celebrities. Instead, all of its stars are made up of a far worse demographic: people related to celebrities. They are all siblings or children or grandchildren of very famous people and the trick of the show is that we (and the other contestants) are trying to discover the identity of their more famous relative.

It’s a historically dingy realm. This is Frank Sinatra Jr territory. It’s Chet Hanks, or Frank Stallone, or most of the Baldwin brothers, or whoever Hulk Hogan’s daughter is. It’s designed to tease out everyone’s worst impulses about privilege and nepotism. Another version of this show would have hammered that angle a lot harder, using it as a conveyor belt for touchless rich kids who never had to actively strive at anything to get far more than the rest of us.

Luckily, Claim to Fame avoids that route, at least based on the first episode. Despite this, it still carries an element of low-level tragedy. All of these people have lived their lives in the shadow of celebrity to some degree. They’ve always been defined by their proximity to fame – everyone they’ve ever met in their lives has inevitably asked them about their famous relative – and their participation on the show only makes it worse. This should be their chance to shine, their only chance to prove to the world that they were more than just a neglected strand in a family tree, and yet here they are, pimping up their family connections in what’s basically a parlor game .

And it’s not like the show is trying to hide that. Everything about Claim to Fame seems designed to portray the contestants as second-class citizens. They all live together, Big Brother style, in a house that’s at one point described as “legendary,” though it’s literally just Katy Perry’s old home. And the show’s first task is to force contestants to take part in a talent show, which feels absurdly cruel. There they are, relatives of people who have used a combination of skill and hard work to make millions of dollars, and the best they can show us is how to make simple cocktails or miss simple basketball shots. It’s a grim sight.

Photo: John Fleenor/ABC

However, once that mockery service is pushed aside, Claim to Fame actually starts to get really interesting. Because none of the contestants know who the other contestants are, and revealing their true identities is the only way to win the grand prize. As such, they all quickly fall into downright paranoia. They lie, they cross-examine, they scribble clues in their notebooks all the time. You don’t have a moment’s rest. It’s a bit like a crime night, except instead of being murdered, the victim has a 1970s action star for a grandfather.

The level of gameplay this evokes in the contestants is ridiculous. For example, a woman is instantly recognizable thanks to her strong physical resemblance to her sister, a very famous athlete. The obvious thing would be to out her for an easy win at the end of the first episode. But the other contestants decide to keep it in their back pocket instead, picking out other less recognizable contestants so they can use it as a free pass when they need it most. She’s now having to spend the entire series as a dead woman, all thanks to a mad determination from someone who, if I had to guess, is probably Zendaya’s cousin or something. It’s an absolutely psychopathic way of living your life. it’s brilliant

Annoyingly, I’m already fully invested in Claim to Fame. There’s an argument for calling it an important social experiment about the cost of fame to the people around you, but I won’t do it. It’s a bunch of Also-Rans going crazy at Katy Perry’s house. Sometimes that’s all you need.

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