Celebrities on the Move

Brian Unger focuses on the mania swirling around television shows featuring dancing celebrities.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Two of today's most popular TV shows allow viewers to see just how uncoordinated celebrities can be on the ice and on the dance floor. In today's Unger Report, Brian Unger wonders whether the famous are in danger of running out of things to do to stay famous.

BRIAN UNGER reporting:

The country is challenged by daunting complex problems; war, nuclear proliferation, scandal, and health care, to name a few. Thus, as the State of the Union seems to be spinning out of control, America turns to celebrities spinning out of control. Bruce Jenner on ice.

Mr. BRUCE JENNER (Gold medalist, 1976 Olympic Games): Just stay vertical, and not hit the ice, and I've done my day's job.

UNGER: And George Hamilton on the dance floor.

Mr. GEORGE HAMILTON (Actor): Well, I'm holding it pretty good, but I'm really doing this for my people in the hood. People in Beverly Hills and Palm Beach, you know, I'm, yo, dog.

UNGER: These bombs and unnatural disasters are the realities America is flocking to on TV. The math doesn't lie. Over 10 million people watched gold medalist Bruce Jenner ice skate on the newest sensation, Skating with Celebrities.

Mr. JENNER: I got bruised from head to toe, I got 16 stitches in my head, I went to the emergency room.

UNGER: And more than 19 million people watched Dancing with the Stars, and actress Lisa Rinna bounce across their TV screens, and then be judged by a professional.

Mr. BRUNO TONIOLI (Judge, Dancing with the Stars): For a fine actress, you controlled yourself, and you were much more effective. Your footwork was great. Great partner; what a bounce.

UNGER: Then we watched the star reveal what makes her bounce so bouncy.

Ms. LISA RINNA (Celebrity dancer, Dancing with the Stars): And I did it for my girls tonight.

Ms. SAMANTHA HARRIS (Host, Dancing with the Stars): Do you think that just going out there and having fun made a difference?

Ms. RINNA: Yeah, I do, and I think what went on this week, you know, unfortunately, we're having to put our dog to sleep this week, and it was just a really rough week, you know.

UNGER: Not as rough as losing your job at Ford, but then again, what is rough? What is a memoir? What constitutes eavesdropping? And really, what is a star? From Fox and ABC comes the broadest interpretation of star and celebrity possible, though watching them dance or ice skate is an improvement over watching them lose weight on Celebrity Fit Club, or sleep on Surreal Life. And these shows do serve a purpose as a cautionary tale for any young person who declares, I want to be an actor.

But are actors willing to go as far as Hollywood wants to push them? Would they go on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, serve out someone elses prison time, or test vaccines for pharmaceutical companies? The fact is, the country may be dangerously close to running out of things to watch celebrities do. It's entirely possible there could come a dark Hollywood day when we are forced to watch actors just act.

And that is today's Unger Report. I'm Brian Unger.

CHADWICK: A program note; remember, you can take the Unger Report with you, because it's now available as a podcast. To find out more, just visit our Web site, that's NPR.org. While you are there, you can also send us a note about the program, about Brian, or anything else you've heard here. We welcome comments, suggestions, and corrections. Just click on the contact us link; it's at the top of every page.

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