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).
- In several cases, the producers want to bring a Reality TV franchise to their own countries but know that the premise will be controversial in their own countries. So to avoid controversies, instead of using ordinary people they use celebrities who are very used to public ridicule and scrutiny as contestants thus making this a Tropes Are Not Bad case.
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. Alternatively, the celebs will compete on behalf of home viewers, or audience members in some cases.
The longer the format change goes on, the more stretched the definition of "celebrity" will inevitably become. Once the show reaches an installment where the "celebrities" are all comprised of A. People from other shows on the same network or B. People whose main claim to fame was appearing in another reality show, then any Ratings Stunt factor is gone.
Speaking of which, this is separate from not only the numerous game shows popular in the 1970s in which contestants had a celebrity teammate, but of course the Panel Game. It also doesn't count if a celeb appears on a game show before becoming famous; that's a case of Retroactive Recognition.
- All but one Japanese game show (Panel Quiz Attack 25) use Japanese celebrities due to TV prize laws limiting civilian prizes to 2 million yennote per person and 10 million yennote total.
- The Monty Hall Beat the Clock started as an all-civilian show, but then switched over to all-celebrity partway into the run, which had them winning money for their sections of the audience.
- Big Break (1991) did theirs on Christmas, and with different Cosplay themes every year, such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and even comic strips (Popeye, Dennis the Menace (UK), etc.).
- Bullseye changed on December 7, 1981 to Celebrity Bullseye, which added a best-of-three format to the front game (leading to more straddling than there was prior to this point) and removed the prize package from Bonus Island. Interestingly, the show continued having returning champs, resulting in such celebs as Loanne Bishop and Ernest Borgnine racking up well over $30,000.
- Done every few weeks/months on The Chase, and usually shown on a Sunday rather than a weekday like the normal episodes.
- The original Concentration had an annual Christmas episode where two celebrities, both dressed as Santa, would match dollar amounts for charity.
- 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!, with actual musicians too.
- Double Dare had several celebrity episodes (including one with "Weird Al" Yankovic and Lou Ferrigno) playing against each other. Nickelodeon's parent company Viacom mounted a pilot on July 27, 1987 for a spinoff called Celebrity Double Dare for syndication, 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 (and neither did some other pilots which had solely civilian adult contestants); a syndicated edition of the original DD, with all the mess and fun intact (as the Jenner pilots were significantly watered down in terms of gunge, likely a major factor in why they weren't picked up) debuted shortly thereafter.
- 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.
- Fun House (1988): The 1990-1991 season, which aired as part of Fox Kids' first Saturday morning lineup, paired each kid with a child or young teen celebrity from a popular TV series.
- Hot Potato is probably the best example of how this 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.
- It should be noted that there was an all-celebrity week during the first part of the show's run, but it was Miss Americas vs. "All-American Sportsmen" and stayed true to the three-of-a-kind format.
- Celebrity Jeopardy!: Andy Richter once talked about his appearance with Conan O'Brien.
Andy: The questions were easier than regular Jeopardy!.
Conan: Oh, because it's for charity.
Andy: Oh... I thought it was (laughing) because we're celebrities. We're the little dumb show ponies.
- Mastermind runs a celebrity series over the Christmas / New Year period. Unlike the regular series there's no tournament structure, just self-contained episodes, and it airs on the flagship channel BBC One (but ends every episode with a contestant call / plug for the regular show on BBC Two).
- The Celebrity Mole
- All episodes of the third season of the 2021 version of Name That Tune feature celebrities playing for charity.
- Only Connect often does celebrity editions to tie in with the annual Comic Relief and Children In Need charity appeals.
- 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.
- Pointless has a regular celebrity edition, Pointless Celebrities (pun intended). The civilian show is stripped Monday to Friday, and the celebrity show usually airs on Saturday.
- 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".
- When the Bill Cullen edition of The Price Is Right did a Channel Hop from NBC to ABC in 1963, a celebrity was employed to play for members of the studio audience on the nighttime show. The daytime show began employing celebrity players in March 1964. Recently on the current show with Drew Carey, celebrities were used on special shows to help contestants win their pricing game.
- The UK Ready Steady Cook had a celebrity spin-off. After it ended, it was effectively absorbed into the main show which mixed up "public" and "celebrity" episodes for a couple of years without making any distinction between them, before eventually going all-celebrity. The 2020 revival went back to being a civilian show.
- 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.
- At the end of 2016, after the success of the first revived series, two Christmas-themed celebrity episodes were recorded at the same time they were shooting the upcoming 2017 series. The event was taken much more seriously this timenote , with the celebrities being assisted by veteran roboteers to build their own machines, which they were expected to drive against each other for the entire tournament. Each episode was its own separate mini-tournament, resulting in 2 surprisingly legit champion machines being crowned: Arena Cleaner and Kadeena Machina.
- University Challenge has a highbrow version, Christmas University Challenge over Christmas / New Year, with teams of distinguished alumni representing their former universities - most are not celebrities in the usual sense, though some are. It's slightly Lighter and Softer than the usual series and, befitting the time of year, tends to include a significant proportion of questions with a Christmas theme.
- 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 hat... what more do you need?
- The WWE themed episode of the NBC version, which was hilarious because almost everyone remained completely in character for the entire show, leading to such brilliant moments as Triple H refusing to vote out Stephanie McMahon who was at the time (in the strictest sense) his boss (as well as his wife) and Big Show towering over Anne when he was eliminated.
- The other WWE episode was just as hilarious if not more so. At one point, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin refused to vote out Debra, saying he couldn't vote out his wife. Later that episode, Bubba Ray Dudley cited the same reason for refusing to vote out his tag team partner D-Von.
- Another NBC episode had cast members from the various series of Star Trek playing.
- The UK version had celebrity lookalikes play for charity in 2002, and children's TV puppets in 2007.
- 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 K9 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 Australian version had one episode in 2001 subtitled "Housemates' Revenge", in which that year's former Big Brother contestants competed.
- Wheel of Fortune:
- During the 1990s, Wheel played this straight. (Dave Barry wrote a column about his appearance.) 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 celeb had an identical amount donated to a charity. Celebrities have not played on Wheel since late 2007, however.
- Special "celebrity" episodes were played as far back as 1980. These Chuck Woolery-era episodes, however, had one star — stars of NBC series and soap operas, the usual game show celebrities (including Bill Daly and Marcia Wallace) and game show hosts (including Bill Cullen, Wink Martindale, Allen Ludden and Tom Kennedy)— each day against two civilian contestants. The celebrity played for a designated member of the audience, and if the celebrity won, the audience member got to go shopping.
- A primetime, hour-long celebrity edition premiered on ABC in January 2021, with each episode featuring two standalone games played by three celebrity guests for a charity of their choice. The rules are simplified by the removal of most of the special wedges, cash bonuses of increasing amountsnote are awarded for solving the puzzle, and there are four full-size (not hemmed in by Bankrupts) Million-Dollar Wedges to increase the odds of a large donation. Contestants are guaranteed $30,000 should they not manage to win more over both games.
- 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 UK version has now gone down this route as well. In 2002, the Brazilian version once had Presidential Candidates.
- For the early questions in US celebrity editions (where getting one wrong would send you home empty-handed), they would tolerate the current contestant getting hints of varying subtlety from the celebrities still waiting their turn. This ensured that the contestant's chosen charity would at least get something, and made for some funny moments.
- In one celebrity series, the "fastest finger" round whittled down the contestants until only Norm Macdonald was left. His question: "Put the following letters in order to spell a popular man's name. (A) N. (B) O. (C) R. (D) M." Macdonald took just over 9 seconds to get the answer.
- 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
- "Casa dos Artistas" (House of the Artists) was a Big Brother featuring artists as contestants. It was so much like Big Brother it was Screwed by the Lawyers of the network holding Big Brother's broadcasting rights in Brazil.
- MasterChef (UK) has a celebrity edition. Although there's some Stunt Casting, the "joke" contestants tend to get weeded out early, and by the time you get to the semi-finals the standard is not far off that of the regular series.
- 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.note
- 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.
- American Ninja Warrior has a celebrity edition to celebrate Red Nose Day 2017. Celebrities involved in this special are: Natalie Morales, Erika Christensen, Derek Hough, Jeff Dye, Nick Swisher, Ashton Eaton, Nikki Glaser, Mena Suvari, and fan-favorite Arrow star, Stephen Amell. While most of the celebs cheated a little, since the special's purpose is to donate nad have a fun run, Amell is at a peak of the human physical condition that he is not only able to plow through six obstacle with ease, but also become the only celebrity to attempt the city finals course, starting with his fitness tool, the Salmon Ladder.
- Downplayed by Overhaulin'. The show has had celebrity "marks" (Ian Ziering, Lance Armstrong), but they aired as part of the normal season and the celebrities weren't treated any differently than non-celebrities. (Although Lance Armstrong's episode did get an independent DVD release due to his Livestrong charity.)
- The Great British Bake Off: Runs in January for Comic/Sport Relief (or since the Channel Hop, in the autumn for Stand Up To Cancer). The first series featured three 'heats' with the winners of each progressing to the final, whilst the second and third's episodes were each standalone competitions, with the third also having different substitute hosts for each episode as well.
- Numberwang did this for Comic Relief with Channel Four's head of numbers Carol Vorderman and Fatboy Slim's famous father-in-law 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, completely disinterested in the game, or downright sadistic towards Alex Trebek (played by Will Ferrell). The categories started off normal, but quickly turned into childish and blatantly easy stuff like "Colors That End In 'Urple'" and "Famous Kareem Abdul-Jabbars"note , and categories with no clues whatsoever like "Automatic Points" and "I Have a Chardonnay" ("...where you automatically get the points, and I get to have a glass of wine"). This didn't stop the celebs from racking up insane halftime totals of -$50,000 or more. Recurring characters besides Trebek included apathetic Cloudcuckoolander Burt Reynolds (played by Norm MacDonald) and Trebek's sadistic arch-nemesis Sean Connery (played by Darryl Hammond), who also had a tendency to intentionally misread categories as sexually-suggestive phrases and insult Trebek's mother.
- I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue gave us two editions of Celebrity What's My Line?, where the panellists were asked to guess what Dame Judi Dench and Alan Titchmarsh did for a living.
- The 30 Rock episode "Game Over" had a celebrity version of "Homonym" (a game show mentioned as a cutaway gag in a previous episode) with John McEnroe failing to distinguish "racket" and "racquet".
- The Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch "World Forum" had famous Communists Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Che Guevara and Mao Zedong as contestants on a Quiz Show about Association Football teams.