Secret Talents of the Stars



10-11 p.m. Tuesday, April 8

Thanks to reality TV, there are people trying to become stars ("American Idol"), stars trying to become people ("Celebrity Apprentice") and, as of Tuesday night, stars trying to become other stars ("Secret Talents of the Stars.")

In this six-week space filler, an unimaginative descendant of CBS' own "Circus of the Stars" (1977-1994), 16 stars (or, in some cases, minor celebrities) each try to bring out one of their hidden talents, often deeply hidden. Each week, four of them perform and two move on to the semifinals. Ultimately, one wins something. That part wasn't clear.

Three judges (actress Debbie Reynolds, singer Brian McKnight and producer Gavin Polone) comment on the performances. Following the immutable Rule of Threes, Reynolds channels Paula Abdul, McKnight does Randy Jackson and Polone is Simon Cowell without the British accent. Polone, executive producer of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," did just that during the entire show.

John O' Hurley, host of the show, was bleached of all personality, resulting in one long impersonation of "Idol's" Ryan Seacrest.

During the ensuing commercial break, online votes are tallied, but only if you live in the Eastern or Central time zones. West of the Rockies, viewers watch a tape-delayed version in which voting is encouraged but not permitted.

In the premiere, "Star Trek's" George Takei sang the country tune "On the Road Again" in a way that made it sound like an appealing alternative. Polone, scrambling for a reference to Takei's acknowledgment in 2005 that he is gay, called it "sort of the 'Brokeback Mountain' version."

The others -- country singer Clint Black as a stand-up comic, ice skater Sasha Cohen as a circus contortionist and singer Mya as a tap dancer -- all gave competent performances. Although the judges leaned heavily toward Mya, she ended up with Takei in the losers' circle.

"Secret Talents," from executive producers Robyn Nash and Don Weiner, operates on a tilted playing field. Some contestants, including Cohen and Mya, perform routines that capitalize on their previous training. Others such as Black and Takei must learn an entirely different form of entertainment.

At the same time, voters are asked to select which contestants deserve to move on without being able to see all of them. That means a good performance early (Cohen's contortions) could trump a great performance later (Mya's tap choreography).

This slot used to be occupied by "Jericho," the twice-canceled CBS drama. After seeing "Secret Talents," I'm willing to chip in for more peanuts.

Magic Molehill Prods. in association with Robyn Nash Prods. and Don Weiner Prods.
Executive producers: Robyn Nash, Don Weiner
Co-executive producer: Dan Funk
Supervising producers: Laurie Howarter, Jonathan Karsh
Coordinating producer: Tim Gaydos
Consulting producer: Dan Perry
Senior producer: Pamela Lane
Co-producer: Allen Cody
Director: Don Weiner
Creator: Robyn Nash
Production designer: Joe Stewart
Music supervisor: Doug DeAngelis
Judges: Debbie Reynolds, Gavin Polone, Brian McKnight
Host: John O'Hurley