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When a program that normally features ordinary people as its central figures — usually (but not limited to) Dating Sims, Game Shows, Reality TV and Home and Garden programs — is suddenly taken over by celebrities. Reasons could be any of the following:
- It may be a Ratings Stunt, typically done during the months of November, February, and May when commercial rates are determined (and, in May, the television season generally ends).
- It may be a "special edition" or occasional treat for the viewer (e.g., Richard Dawson's Family Feud primetime specials).
- It may be to get one more season out of the dying Cash Cow Franchise, or a last-ditch effort to save the show when the real fault is likely to be the timeslot or format (e.g., Celebrity Bullseye and Celebrity Hot Potato).
When it's a game show, usually the winnings are donated to charity rather than kept by the contestants, as it's hard for the audience to get worked up over celebrities winning even more money than they already have...unless they're has-beens who really don't have any money anymore.
Speaking of which, this is separate from the numerous game shows popular in the 1970s in which contestants had a celebrity teammate...and, of course, the Panel Game.
Note To Producers: If your game is typically played by civilians, do not switch to "All celebrities, all the time!" It doesn't matter if you're a veteran or a newbie, because your show will die within a year...at most. To be more blunt, it has never worked.
- In general, most Japanese games use Japanese celebrities due to TV prize laws limiting civilian prizes to 2 million JPY (about US$20,000) total.
- Bullseye US changed sometime during the 1981-82 season (various sources claim September, November, or January) to Celebrity Bullseye, although it continued with returning champions and straddling matches.
- The Australian Deal or No Deal had this with celebrities from Dancing With the Stars.
- Inverted with Definition, as the teams were originally celebrity-civilian and switched to civilians-only on December 16, 1985.
- Subverted by Distraction, which used former Big Brother contestants.
- Don't Forget the Lyrics
- Double Dare had several celebrity episodes (including one with Weird Al and Lou Ferrigno) playing against each other. Nickelodeon mounted a pilot on July 27, 1987 for a spinoff called Celebrity Double Dare hosted by Bruce Jenner with teams of celebrities (Scott Baio and Heidi Bohay) and adult contestants, but it never got past there and said pilot never aired.
- Family Feud had several of these over its various incarnations, but of particular note is the "almost celebrity" editions which had teams of celebrity lookalikes playing each other. Oddly enough, they still had to donate their winnings to charity, even though they weren't actually celebrities.
- The British version, Family Fortunes, currently only runs as a celebrity version somewhat oxymoronically titled All-Star Family Fortunes, despite only two (usually) out of the ten contestants actually being stars...and even then, the "stars" are usually nothing more than average soap actors.
- Hot Potato, in what is probably the best example of how it can go very, very wrong. Having aired at Noon for its first thirteen weeks, the show ousted its unique three-of-a-kind contestant teams ("...and WE'RE telegram singers!~") on April 23, 1984 in favor of solo players being paired with two celebrity teammates. The trouble with this was that the celebrities were usually comic actors or comedians who took their wisecracks more seriously than they did the game. The show was canned ten weeks later.
- Celebrity Jeopardy! Andy Richter once talked about his appearance with Conan O'Brien.
Andy: The questions were easier than regular Jeopardy!.
- The Celebrity Mole
- Spectacularly subverted with the Dutch version of The Mole, however: it switched from a civilian to an all-celebrity format after its fourth season and has been going on for at least eight seasons since then. This might be due to the majority of its celebrities not being pompous famewhores and clearly being in this for the fun.
- Password played it straight pretty much all the time except in mid-1974, when ABC began falling into Type 3 rather frequently in what appeared to be a last grab for ratings before the debut of All-Stars. In February 1975, the show overhauled its format to bring back civilians and offer more money, only dipping very briefly into Type 2 on the series finale.
- Power Of 10 had an interesting example, bringing in two players from the concurrent season of Big Brother to play. Host Drew Carey brought them up to speed on what had happened while they were in the house, although none of these statements were true...well, except the last, which was "I'm the host of The Price Is Right".
- A bunch of special episodes in Season 4 of Robot Wars included a celebrity edition where celebrities were added to roboteer teams from that season, the celebrities had to operate the robot for a whole minute before having the option of handing it over to the actual team.
- The Weakest Link has had a few of these in (at least) both the UK and US versions.
- The Hip-Hop episode of the NBC run — Young MC shamelessly flirting with Anne, Nate Dogg laying waste to geography questions and mocking Da Brat at every turn, Reverend Run's Nice Hat...what more do you need?
- One of the more memorable in the UK was the 2007 Doctor Who edition where the contestants included John Barrowman (Captain Jack), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Nicholas Briggs (voice of the Daleks and Cybermen, among others), and the K-9 prop, credited as himself and the first voted off due to worries about the machine's stability. The Anne Droid from "Bad Wolf" (2005) appeared at the beginning, reciting the opening spiel before the real Anne unplugged it.
- The WWE-themed episode in the US, which was hilarious because almost everyone remained completely in character for the entire show, leading to such brilliant moments as HHH refusing to vote out Stephanie who was at the time (in the strictest sense) his boss (as well as his wife) and the Big Show towering over Ann when he was eliminated.
- During the 1990s, Wheel of Fortune played this straight. In the 2000s, they occasionally tried a variant, where each team consisted of a celebrity and a contestant; the game was played normally, with the contestant earning cash and trips as usual, while the celebrity had an identical amount donated to a charity. These have not happened since 2007.
- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: One of the reasons the ABC version fell down in its final season (2001–02) was about half the episodes being celebrity oriented. The French version took it a step further by completely ceasing to cast non-celebrities and allegedly giving the cash to charity (much like Fort Boyard years earlier).
- The original Concentration had an annual Christmas episode where two celebrities, both dressed as Santa, would match dollar amounts for charity.
- The Celebrity Apprentice is an Egregious case, as one of the first edition's "celebrities" was Omarosa What's-Her-Name, whose main claim to fame was...competing on The Apprentice. In the second edition, one celebrity was a briefcase model from Deal or No Deal.
- Celebrity Big Brother
- The original Fear Factor did it to the point where every episode was a Celebrity Edition to keep the show going amidst sagging ratings. As you'd expect, it only made the ratings fall faster and the show quickly canned.
- Trading Spaces had several episodes where neighboring celebrities swapped homes, donned smocks, and got spattered with paint under the guidance of a pair of interior designers. Mind you, this doesn't count the episode where Slash of Guns 'n' Roses just wandered in (because he was a friend of one of the couples) and got put to work sewing curtains.
- Wife Swap is being revamped with a "Celebrity" edition, with "celebrities" such as Flava Flav, Meatloaf, and Ted Haggard, the evangelical pastor who in 2006 admitted to being with a gay prostitute and using meth. That last bit is probably the only thing anybody knows about him.
- The Karaoke Revolution series had a number of its more recent installments branded as American Idol versions.
- Numberwang did this for Comic Relief with Channel 4's head of numbers Carol Vorderman and Fatboy Slim's famous dad Johnny Ball.
- A Political Cartoon in Private Eye said that due to the Gulf War's blanket TV coverage, it would be followed by a Celebrity Gulf War.
- The Saturday Night Live version of Celebrity Jeopardy!, where the celebs were Too Dumb to Live or downright sadistic towards Alex Trebek (played by Will Ferrell). The categories were hilarious easy stuff like "Automatic Points", "How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up?", "Current Black Presidents", and "Colors That End In -Urple"...but that didn't stop the celebs from racking up insane halftime totals of -$50,000. Recurring characters besides Trebek included Cloudcuckoolander Burt Reynolds (played by Norm MacDonald) and Trebek's sadistic arch-nemesis Sean Connery (played by Darryl Hammond).
- And a brilliant performance of Jeff Goldblum by David Duchovny.
- I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue gave us Celebrity What's My Line, where the panellists were asked to guess what Dame Judi Dench did for a living.