Seeing stars: Celebrities compete in simulated Mars mission in Fox's 'Stars on Mars'
Ever since Amazon magnate Jeff Bezos' trip into space last year, there has been plenty of speculation about the rise of space tourism and which celebrities would be among the first to achieve liftoff. Well, for those wondering what it might look like to take things a step further and host a star-studded reality show in space, Fox has got you covered. The new reality competition series, "Stars on Mars," premieres Monday, June 5, on Fox.
Equal parts Bravo and Star Trek, "Stars on Mars" features Captain James T. Kirk himself, William Shatner. While not actually filmed in outer space, the unscripted series follows a group of celebrities who must spend an entire summer on a simulated, Mars-like planet together.
The series opens with the aspiring cosmonauts suiting up and settling into their new space mission-worthy digs, where they'll "live, eat, sleep, strategize, and bond with each other" (per Fox) over the course of the series. Constantly assigned tasks by mission control -- manned by Shatner, of course -- each famous person will need to compete in a series of challenges with the aim of "colonizing" their out-of-this-world surroundings.
Successfully completing those tasks will prove to be key, because there's a "Survivor"-like element to this competition: each week, they'll vote to eliminate one of their crewmates and send them "back to Earth" (or rather, back to real life) until just one remains.
There is a good mix of skills among the 12-person crew, including actors, athletes, public figures and philanthropists. Actors Ariel Winter ("Modern Family"), Tallulah Willis ("The Whole Ten Yards") and Christopher Mintz-Plasse ("Superbad"), for example, will be joined by reality TV stars Porsha Williams Guobadia ("The Real Housewives of Atlanta") and Tom Schwartz ("Vanderpump Rules"), as well as singer/songwriter Tinashe. Meanwhile, rounding out the more athletic side are Tour de France multichampion Lance Armstrong, UFC champion Ronda Rousey, former Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch, former NFL cornerback Richard Sherman and Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon. Comedian Natasha Leggero ("Another Period") joins from a category of her very own.
In a news release, Fox executives laid out their hopes for the celebs on their "Martian" mission: "During their stay, they will be faced with authentic conditions that simulate life on Mars, and they must use their brains and brawn -- or maybe just their stellar social skills -- to outlast the competition and claim the title of 'brightest star in the galaxy.'"
When the series was officially announced in April, Allison Wallach, President of Unscripted Programming at Fox Entertainment, stated, "The moment I heard the pitch for 'Stars on Mars,' I knew a show this bold, this big and this outlandish simply belonged on Fox. Watching celebrities take giant leaps out of their comfort zone and step into the unexpected will no doubt be truly transformational and comical. Throughout, we will learn a lot about these stars, and when you factor in William Shatner leading the charge from Mission Control, we have the makings of a show that's ready for blast off."
This "analog mission," as NASA typically refers to these types of simulations, is filmed in the South Australian town of Coober Pedy, a red-sanded desert town north of Adelaide that is famous for its opals. And while each celebronaut voted "off the planet" during the competition does still need to return to the United States, there remains the small consolation that the flight home isn't quite as long as that from actual Mars.
Produced by Fremantle-owned Eureka Productions, the unscripted show is the kind of lighter fare that's perfect for summer viewing. As for Shatner, the "Star Trek" icon has remained synonymous with space exploration since the original series (or "TOS" to fans) debuted in 1966; as Mission Control in "Stars on Mars," he's expected to offer support to the celebrities and add a bit of levity to the competition.
In a case of life imitating art, in 2021, the then-90-year-old actor was able to boldly go where no person his age had gone before, when he and three fellow passengers blasted into space aboard a ship built by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin company.
In his recently released book "Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder," Shatner described the effects of gravitational forces, explaining that, "at two g's, I tried to raise my arm, and could barely do so," and "at three g's, I felt my face being pushed down into my seat," before experiencing the relief of weightlessness.
Presumably, the memory of that feeling still lingers on, considering Shatner's words of wisdom to the "Stars on Mars" participants: "Thanks to lower gravity on Mars, you'll weigh 62% less. Bad news: the air is unbreathable, so if you're from L.A., it'll remind you of home."
• "Stars on Mars" begins Monday, June 5, on Fox. Episodes will be available to stream the next day on Hulu.