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TELEVISION REVIEW

Reality show cops to goofy gimmick

The best moment in "Armed and Famous," the new CBS celeb-reality show, comes when Erik Estrada, training to be a real police officer, is asked to play-act a routine traffic stop. Paunched a bit with age but still bearing his "CHiPs" swagger, Estrada puts on a voice of deep authority and orders the offender to drop to his knees.

A training officer points out, gently, that he's just supposed to give the guy a ticket.

"NEVER MIND, SIR!" Estrada bellows.

It makes you imagine what could have been when CBS greenlit a series that appends five demi-celebrities to the Muncie, Ind., police department. Why not choose a set of actors who have played cops on TV and let them out-Ponch each other? Add Leslie Nielsen to the mix? See what Dennis Franz would do on a domestic call?

Instead, the six-part series -- which premieres tonight at 8, airs again tomorrow, and resumes its standard time slot on Wednesdays -- offers us the standard C-list casting. We've got the veteran gunning for his comeback (Estrada), the sexpot (wrestling star Trish Stratus ), and the freak ( La Toya Jackson, who shares her brother's nose and eyebrows.) We have two bad boys who -- given the way these things work -- are destined to show their mettle: "Jackass" star Jason "Wee - Man" Acuna and MTV fixture Jack Osbourne .

In tonight's premiere, they go through the paces of Muncie Police Academy, then ride through the streets on what looks to be highly supervised patrols. Their exploits are engaging, but in a standard way; these people are entertainers, so they do what's expected of them.

Acuna goes to a bar and whoops it up with locals, Stratus shows off her biceps. Jackson -- who always looks on the verge of a 19th-century swoon -- demands a tablecloth and a "finger bowl" at a local barbecue joint.

The real cops walk around looking half-perturbed and half-amused. When Osbourne locks the door in his patrol car, his partner scoffs good-naturedly: "Are you scared of the bad parts of Muncie?"

He gets the gimmick, too; this is a standard Hollywood-for-Heartland exchange. Muncie agrees to be mocked, as long as it gets some spotlight and the chance to preach about protecting the public. And the temporary cops, their duty done, will return to California, to see if they can parlay this into a turn on "Dancing With the Stars."

Joanna Weiss can be reached at weiss@globe.com. For more on TV, go to boston.com/ae/tv/blog.

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