The real star of Stars on Mars is exactly who you think it is

The premise of Stars on Mars, which premiered June 5 on Fox, is very simple: Celebrities go to space camp. The longer explanation is that it’s a reality show where 12 celebrities pretend they’re on Mars for 24 days and compete to see who the strongest, bravest, brightest, and most competent crew member is, earning the title of “Brightest Star of the Galaxy.”

Stars on Mars’ celeb cast is a hodgepodge of fairly notable names, who all get introduced as they arrive in the airlock to the base, as they try to make sense of the new digs and the HAL 9000-like “AI” who’s hosting them. It’s standard meet-and-greet reality show stuff.

But Marshawn Lynch needs no such introduction. He shows up bouncing along on a Mars rover with former Seahawks teammate Richard Sherman, the only paired introduction on the show. While Sherman has been working as an analyst for Prime Video’s football coverage, it’s Lynch who seems to be the clear star of the moment. Everyone else’s talking-head interviews illustrate what they’re thinking about the show: Sherm says he’s glad to have a teammate; Modern Family star Ariel Winter says she wants to get more comfortable playing herself. Lynch’s segments are pure commentary gold.

He’s upset about the bed situation (“Yeah, the sleeping arrangements on Mars nasty as fuck”). He’s ready to step up as base commander and rescue the stranded 12th mate (“We gotta send a team out there… It might be Beyoncé,” he sagely notes). Even outside the cutaways, Lynch is always good to hit a comedic beat, whether it’s ragging on Lance Armstrong for not being a real athlete — because cycling is easy, in Marshawn’s book — or just passing out in his private commander’s quarters.

For those following Lynch’s post-NFL career, this is no surprise. He already took home the title of top guest on Murderville, and he was a ferocious guest star on a Bear Grylls show. He popped up on Westworld and The League; he fought the Predator! Hell, you only have to look to Lynch’s iconic NFL career to remember the man has always known how to work a spotlight in his favor.

Marshawn Lynch absolutely beaming in a still from Murderville Photo: Darren Michaels/Netflix
character shot of Marshawn Lynch with a rocket launcher for Predator: Hunting Grounds Image: Illfonic/Sony Interactive Entertainment

The show seems to know this too: In a talking head interview, Vanderpump Rules star Tom Schwartz declines to call Christopher Mintz-Plasse by his Superbad character name, since he’s probably heard it yelled at him since he was a teen. Cut to Marshawn Lynch saying “Hey, McLovin!” Even comedian and fellow Mars mate Natasha Leggero wonders how she’s supposed to be Mars’ resident comedian with him around.

When Lynch isn’t on Stars on Mars, the show is fine, if not remarkable. The first episode is a lot of softball challenges as the celebrities pretend they’re on Mars and face down the “real” challenges of being an astronaut. The show has the production values of the escape room of your dreams and (in episode 1 at least) the reality show thrills of a C-tier competition show. There are a few notable moments, like Winter thinking Lance Armstrong was Neil Armstrong or Tinashe calling Tallulah Willis a quintessential nepo baby. These are the types of things that punctuate so many network reality shows. Stars on Mars’ test will be whether the challenges and celebrities manage to stand out as the herd gets thinned.

But there’s already one clear standout. Whoever wins this space camp reality show competition is largely irrelevant. One star is already shining much brighter than the rest, and it’s Marshawn Lynch.

New episodes of Stars on Mars air on Fox on Mondays at 8 p.m. EDT.