Armed, Famous & Canceled

CBS axes celebs-as-law-enforcement reality series Armed & Famous, citing poor ratings in its Wednesday slot opposite American Idol; at least one new episode is scheduled to be shown on VH1 this weekend

By Natalie Finn Jan 30, 2007 3:00 AMTags

Not that we needed a reality series to prove it, but apparently Erik Estrada, La Toya Jackson and Jack Osbourne are no match for Simon, Paula and Randy. 

CBS has canceled the celebs-as-law-enforcement experiment Armed & Famous after only four episodes, blaming the series' downfall on lackluster ratings. 

"Going up against American Idol was a tall task for the show," network spokesman Chris Ender said.  

Enough said, really, although we could add that it wasn't exactly a critical darling, either. ("This is the perfect score: a show so bad even Fox wouldn't touch it," Newsday critic Verne Gay wrote. Smell the unintentional irony.) 

Armed & Famous' ratings road took a downhill turn after a respectable 45th-place premiere (8.1 million viewers) on Jan. 10 and a Jan. 11 follow-up episode that attracted 7.7 million.  

The following week, airing opposite Idol's Wednesday installment, the show pulled in only 5.8 million. 

The Muncie, Indiana-set series followed CHiPs alum and former Surreal Life roommate Erik Estrada; singer, famous sibling and Psychic Friend La Toya Jackson; Jackass' Jason "Wee Man" Acuña; MTV reality vet Jack Osbourne; and former WWE star Trish Harder, as they trained to become reserve police officers and then headed out on patrol with some of Muncie's finest. 

"I don't understand that part of the business," Muncie mayor Dan Canan told the local Star Press, referring to the question of ratings and network performance. "I'm just pleased with how the city was portrayed and how the department was portrayed. It's showing the general public what they're doing in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep." 

While the finished series featured numerous reality-show-friendly scenarios, such as the celebrities absorbing 50,000-volt shots from a stun gun, an emotional graduation ceremony during which they're awarded their hard-earned badges and an elderly drug trafficker who can't believe she's being arrested by Ponch from CHiPs, the production was not without its complications. 

For instance, shortly after filming began in November, Jackson almost lost her place on the thin blue line after failing to complete the required amount of pushups during her physical assessment. She later redeemed herself, however, by hitting the bull's-eye during target practice at the shooting range. (And yes, that involved a real gun, with real bullets.)

Jackson then lost some of that cred when, dining at a casual local restaurant with her assigned partner, she asked the waiter to spruce up the table with some finger bowls. 

In the breaking even department: Jackson, so afraid of cats that the sight of one on a doorstep sends her flailing back to the patrol car when she's supposed to be writing up a burglary report, ends up seeing a cat therapist, who helps the "Heart Don't Lie" singer overcome her childhood fear. 

And Estrada, despite his previous experience as an on-camera cop, found himself in hot water with the police chief earlier this month after losing his cool with a man who was stabbed in the leg during a domestic dispute who referred to the actor as "Emilio Estevez." 

Estrada accompanied the 53-year-old suspect into a waiting ambulance, where they exchanged expletive-laced barbs.

"The key to the whole thing is that we don't want to get into a shouting match with anybody," police chief Joe Winkle told the Star Press at the time—before seeing the footage that ended up on episode four of the series, but after the incident became front-page news in Muncie. "But that's one of those things you learn as a young policeman. You eventually learn that it's not effective."  

"If he has an opinion on something you've done wrong, he isn't shy on sharing it," Armed & Famous producer Tom Forman said. "And I suspect that's all this was." 

At least one of the series' unaired episodes is scheduled to be televised on VH1 this weekend. A total of seven were in the works, and a VH1 spokeswoman said that if producers complete the remaining two installments, they too will most likely be shown on the cable network.