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Celebs descend on Pepperdine, duke it out in 'Battle of the Network Stars’ reboot

Team captain Ronda Rousey (right) cheers on her team of (left to right) Parker Stevenson, Brande Roderick, Nicole Eggert, Gena Lee Nolin and David Chokachi during a filming of the “Battle of the Network Stars” reboot. Photos by Kelsey McNeal/ABC
Actor John Barrowman propels himself across a pool on nothing more than a rope during filming of the “Battle of the Network Stars” reboot.
Barbara Burke, Freelance Reporter
7:21 am PDT June 28, 2017

There was old-fashioned fun and frolic at the filming of the redux of the ’70s and ’80s television pop-culture classic, “Battle of the Network Stars,” which pits celebrities against one another in Olympic-style competition. Many turned out to witness the filming this month at Pepperdine and were delighted to take in the star-studded action. 

“I loved this show as a kid, of course,” said Andrew Glassman, executive producer of the newest iteration of “Battle of the Network Stars” as he sat on the set for the show. “I remember watching it and thinking someday I’d like to be a part of it. It’s the best summer camp on the planet – all the participants have a lot of fun.” 

The Pepperdine pool was configured so it had the obligatory dunk tank, complete with the victim sitting high on a perch as a member of the opposing team threw balls at a target until in went the victim with a splash. The splashee emerged with a good-humored laugh and a wise crack, engaging in antics as attendees laughed and applauded.

A total of 100 stars, from both classic and new television and cable shows, paired off into teams over the multi-day filming of episodes. The teams were formed based on the characters TV lovers admire, randing from several years past to the current day. The episodes will include pairings such as cops vs. TV sitcoms, White House vs. lawyers and TV moms and dads vs. TV kids — just to name a few.

Participants tried their hands at kayak races, tennis, tug-of-war, dunk-tank techniques and other athletic endeavors, all while engaging in hysterical antics and thoroughly entertaining onlookers and experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

“It’s interesting watching the participants who are people we know and love from various shows,” Glassman said. “When they go out there, they really give it their all. Something happens when the whistle blows and the competition becomes real. They all want to win.”   

“Battle of the Network Stars” was an institution and ran for 12 years from November 1987 to December 1988. Filming the popular show was a much-loved Pepperdine tradition.

“To my knowledge, ‘Battle of the Network Stars’ was the first unscripted show in America,” Glassman said. “Today on set we have a star from when I grew up, Parker Stevenson, who was in ‘The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew [Mysteries]’ series. I greatly admired him when I was young. Then, there are participants who are on network series today, such as the ‘Baywatch’ stars that we have on set. This is a show that I enjoy thoroughly. However, it is also a show that my nieces are excited to see as well. 

“‘Battle of the Network Stars’ is a show for all generations. We’re so excited to be reviving this show. We wanted to walk in the footsteps of Howard Cosell and the original creators.”

The filming of the series at Pepperdine makes many faculty and staff wax nostalgic. They remember the many summers when the show was filmed in Malibu.

“For many people, their initial exposure to Pepperdine University was via the TV show ‘Battle of the Network Stars.’ Along the way, when someone found out that I worked at the university, they would say, ‘What a great school, I’ve seen it on TV (‘Battle of the Network Stars’),” said Marv Dunphy, Pepperdine’s men’s volleyball head coach. “The campus and the university have matured and it will be exciting to see what they do with round two.”

The reboot of the all-star show features 100 TV stars from 14 different network and cable companies, including TV series such as “Modern Family,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Scandal,” “Melrose Place,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “The Goldbergs,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “The West Wing,” “Dallas,” “CHIPs,” “Law & Order,” and many more.

Participant Paul Johannson, who starred in “Beverly Hills, 90210,” among many other shows, shared his feeling with Malibu Surfside News about participating in the filming. 

“I was a fan of the original show so it met all my expectations. It was a blast. I enjoyed the experience, but wished I had not volunteered to do the kayaking,” he quipped. “I was very impressed with the organization. The teamwork really kicked in early with our relay; [there was] lots of competitive chatter kept our eyes on the ball.”   

Actor John Barrowman agreed.  

“I always love a good competition and I love team work,” said Barrowman, who stars on the show “Arrow.” “It’s one thing when I’m in a show. I always make sure we work as a team and not as individuals. And everyone on [Team] Troublemakers had the same attitude which was great. Except in the tug of war.”

“Battle of the Network Stars” will air beginning at 9 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 29, on ABC. Hosts of the show include ESPN’s Mike Greenberg and Joe Tessitore. Cassidy Hubbarth and Cari Champion of ESPN will be the sideline reporters. Finally, Super Bowl 50 winner DeMarcus Ware and MMA fighter and Olympian Ronda Rousey will be the team captains.