TV show, 2007
Trish Stratus left wrestling at the top of her game, retiring the Women’s Champion in her hometown. So naturally, she wanted to parlay that momentum into a career in law enforcement – and CBS wanted to make that career change a reality.
In December 2006, Trish and four other celebrities joined the Muncie, Indiana Police Department for the reality show, “Armed & Famous”.
Police Chief Joe Winkle thought this would make for good publicity and really put Muncie on the map…
…assuaging local concerns that this was a really stupid idea that would backfire terribly, you idiot.
Stratus would be joined by CHiPs star Erik Estrada…
…Jackass star Jason, “Wee Man” Acuña…
…and The Osbournes star Jack Osbourne. And so Trish strolled into town with her trademark cowboy hat and…
Oh right, I forgot LaToya Jackson.
It’s safe to say that none of the celebrities knew what was in store for them, except perhaps former CHiPs star Erik Estrada, who made no secret of his six years of prior “police experience”.
And CM Punk had 15 years of prior “combat experience”.
The cadets’ training included getting zapped by a taser. Trish was the only cadet to actually get shot with the taser dart, rather than opting to use clamps. Stratus, it seems, had the biggest balls of all…
…except maybe Erik Estrada.
Then there were the simulated traffic stops, where, fortunately, the cadets were armed only with pellet guns.
The cadets were also taken to target practice, where they fired real guns, not the orange-tipped toy kind.
As this camera shot proves, these firearms were dangerous and should never be pointed at anyone (such as a cameraman).
“I love shooting guns”, said Jack Osbourne. “I started shooting guns at six, at eight I shot my sister, and right now I own two guns.” You’re probably doing a double-take right now, but yes, you read that right: He really does own two guns!
The other cadets were all nervous around an armed and trigger-happy LaToya Jackson and were quite candid about it. “HO-LY…
…Moley!” said Wee Man. Okay, so maybe he wasn’t completely candid.
Jack Osbourne, the one who shot his sister as a child, was by far the most accurate shot of all the cadets.
I guess that explains why he had only one sister on The Osbournes.
At last, it was graduation day, when the cadets were given their uniforms, badges, and guns. This was their reward for what the police chief called, “three weeks of really intense training”. To put that into perspective, Tough Enough 2 lasted thirteen weeks, and this still happened:
Now imagine giving Jackie Gayda both the power of arrest and a government-issued firearm.
While the five celebrities were technically “reserve officers”, as far as I could tell they were just like regular cops except without a pension or health plan. Imagine having to do a dangerous job without any kind of benefits. Trish should excel at this.
Speaking of Trish, how come Officer Stratus got her stage name on her uniform, but Officer Wee Man didn’t?
To avoid total chaos, each new cop got paired with a veteran, in case the rookies got nervous, confused, or horny.
Erik Estrada’s new partner, for instance, was everything he was looking for, namely:
Regardless, there were some pretty questionable decisions from the get-go.
After a car was broken into, Officer Jackson stopped a man in the neighborhood. She arrested him after searching him for stolen goods and finding a Bic lighter in his pocket. But not just any Bic lighter —
— a red Bic lighter!
Elsewhere, Officer Acuña pursued a woman matching the following description of a suspected shoplifter to a tee: “One girl is wearing a cap”. The woman refused to believe the Jackass prankster was a police officer…
…and ended up getting arrested for disorderly conduct. She didn’t steal anything, apparently, but she did run her mouth a lot.
Officer Estrada got into a shouting match with a stabbing victim after the guy called him the “MF word”, which Ponch took literally for some reason.
Among the man’s other insults was “Emilio Estevez”.
The incident made front-page news. Ponch got in trouble with Chief Winkle for that one and had to rush down main street to his office first thing in the morning.
If these incidents reflected poorly on Muncie, so too did the endless stream of drunks, crack users, and crazy old men.
Officer Stratus and her partner made a pair of prostitution arrests, which I’m skeptical of. First of all, the woman didn’t look like she was having much fun, and she might have been an addict.
How could Trish work in WWE for so long and not know what a Ho looked like?
Plus, the john’s excuse of buying an electric toothbrush was pretty convincing.
One Muncie resident appeared on two different episodes. The second time, he got tasered but was so drunk and high on crack that he barely felt it. Wow, crack is amazing*!
*Crack is not amazing
While we’re on the subject, Erik Estrada arrested a crack dealer who could have been somebody’s nana (perhaps Toby Keith’s significant other’s).
Still, any publicity was good publicity, insisted Chief Winkle, even publicity that implied that half the residents were drunk drivers, abusers, absconders, or deviants.
Case in point: When Officers Stratus and Jackson went undercover as workin’ girls.
I’m sure the people at Grace Church were thrilled to have their parking lot featured on national television as a hotspot for street walkers.
Trish, by the way, was neither the first nor the last wrestler to play a hooker; you’ll recall that Lita, Victoria, and others have taken on that role.
While Jackson helped nab a potential client committing a lewd act in his car, nobody was willing to pay even $10 to have sex with Trish Stratus.
That’s more unbelievable than LaToya’s crippling fear of cats, which she overcame in a single episode.
Nobody recognized Officer Stratus on her undercover assignment, but a number of people did recognize her in uniform.
But it was Erik Estrada who got the most attention…
…usually from the elderly and Latino communities.
One older lady even asked Ponch to sign her falsie.
There were other light-hearted moments thrown in to break up the often monotonous scenes of human misery.
Wee Man tried to show his partner how to skateboard, but Officer O’Dell just embarrassed himself. Sorry officer, but you’ll need three whole weeks of training if you want to thrash in the state of Indiana.
On one episode, Officer Stratus responded to a couple arguing about the dad using adult shampoo for their baby. “All this is about shampoo”, said the man.
Having wrestled at Wrestlemania 18, Trish understood completely…
…bringing him to the supermarket for baby shampoo and flowers.
In another, decidedly less heartwarming domestic dispute, a couple bloodied each other in a fight and were both arrested. You might be wondering why so few of the suspects had their faces digitally scrambled – it’s because the show’s producers offered small sums of cash in exchange for signing a waiver…
…that is, if they rejected the initial offer of a free novelty t-shirt. One lawyer even alleged that the police held up the booking process until his client signed away his likeness.
While I’d pay money not broadcast my arrest, I can understand why someone who can’t afford bail or legal fees might agree to air their own face on TV…
…but I can’t imagine a parent (or a TV producer, for that matter) being so desperate as to drag their kids into it. Yet here we are.
And if you think that’s tasteless and exploitative, later in the same episode, Trish Stratus did a welfare check on an older man who hadn’t shown up to work. As you might expect, he had died, but as you might not expect, they showed the corpse on camera, totally uncensored.
No joke. The blurring is my own.
Due to low ratings against FOX’s American Idol, CBS cancelled Armed & Famous after just four episodes. It was probably a blessing in disguise that this ill-conceived, irresponsible program got canned before someone sued.
Two months later, someone sued. It seems that a whole team of officers, seeking to arrest a middle-aged male murder suspect, had broken into the wrong house and handcuffed a 22-year-old woman.
Amazingly, footage of the raid had actually made it to air, albeit heavily-edited, with the wrongful arrest omitted. More amazingly, although Jack Osbourne was present, he wasn’t the one who screwed up.
All in all, Armed & Famous lasted just 17 days, which was even less time than the celebrities spent in the police academy.
Harder Stratus returned to the ring a few years later, having been unable to scratch the itch.
The itch to perform with minor celebrities, that is.
The chief retired for good in 2019, but at least one officer from the show is still working in law enforcement:
Officer Erik Estrada of St. Anthony, Idaho.
Armed & Famous was truly a show that broke all the rules –
– even the important ones that were there for good reason.