Take a look at the man in the denim jacket in this clip from ABC's Claim to Fame. His name is Chris. He has a celebrity relative. One of his fellow contestants, Jane, is about to guess that Chris is related to Elvis Presley. She has her reasons, including a clue that seemed like it was referring to a "hound dog" and a pop idol who died in the '70s.
Jane was wrong and was eliminated from the game. Then, in Episode 7, Hugo was the unlucky contestant who made the house consensus that Chris' celebrity relative was Elton John (this, despite a clue that stated outright that Chris' claim to fame was born in Utah) as his formal guess. Hugo was eliminated just like Jane.
Not a soul remaining in the Claim to Fame house has the faintest idea which celebrity Chris is related to. If only they could call their moms. As part of a meme that's been circulating around social media for the last several weeks, fans of Claim to Fame have been texting their moms for help guessing Chris' celebrity relative. The moms have been unequivocal in their answer:
My mom guessed Chris from #ClaimToFame's relation before I could even finish the question— naomi (@naomicalhoun) August 9, 2023
It makes sense. Donny Osmond is the ultimate mom celebrity, and his clean-cut Utah looks could not have been passed on more perfectly from father to son.
It's here where I have to admit that, at least when it comes to this amateur sociological experiment, I am functionally a mom. I had Chris clocked as related to Donny Osmond from the first moment I saw him, and every clue that has emerged about him ("Puppy Love," Utah, the Flamingo) has only supported this supposition. I'm not old enough to have experienced Donny Osmond's teen idol reign in the '70s, but I'm old enough to have seen him on numerous talk shows, variety shows, and in ads for his stage performance in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. That last one was the subject of a clue in the most recent episode, which is what got everyone guessing Elton John. In the episode's most hilarious moment, Gabriel surmised that the many-colored-coat clue could be referring to "Joseph! From the Bible!" So tantalizingly close!
As perfect a show as Claim to Fame is (best show of the summer, two years running!), it can be maddening when certain contestants are related to celebrities who their fellow contestants have absolutely no frame of reference for. This happened in Season 1 a few times: Pepper made it almost all the way through the game before someone stumbled on Dean Martin as her celebrity grandfather. Logan, meanwhile, made it to the final two and nearly won the game simply because no one in the house knew much about country music, and his celebrity relative was Jason Aldean. (Ironically, Aldean's recent scandals would have made him a lot easier to guess this year.)
To be clear: watching Claim to Fame contestants flail around and butt up against the limits of their pop culture knowledge is a huge part of the fun of the show. Gabriel and Chris have been armed with all the clues they need about Monay's celebrity relative for two episodes now (he's an actor who's been on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Saturday Night Live), but because neither of them watch Curb, they're in the weeds. But there's a difference between knowing what you don't know and being on the cusp of figuring it out versus having no shot at guessing somebody's celebrity relative because you're simply too young to know who they are.
This ends up placing contestants like Chris and Logan at a competitive advantage over people whose relatives are more widely known, like Eddie Murphy, Alicia Keys, or Zendaya. This is why Carly never had a chance, being related to the universally knowable Tom Hanks. No wonder she flipped out.
Heading into Season 3 (and there had better be a Season 3), the producers should probably consider updating that celebrity rolodex or casting older contestants who might be able to broaden the house's pop culture knowledge. A huge part of the game strategy of Claim to Fame is sharing information with people who know different kinds of celebrities than you do. A wider age range of contestants just makes that aspect of the game more fun. Ultimately, the solution might be as perfectly simple as those memed text messages: cast more celebrities' moms.
Claim to Fame airs Monday nights at 8:00 PM ET on ABC. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.