The Telefile
Somebody was asking me today how I was enjoying Celebrity Apprentice, and I was forced to admit something that I will tell you guys, but that I wouldn't be comfortable talking about all that publicly, so let's keep it between us here on the internet.
I'm kind of enjoying it. I mean, not as much as what's supposed to be on, which is NBC Thursday comedy, but this is probably the first season of The Apprentice I've enjoyed since at least the third, and maybe the second. At first, I found this realization horrifying, but then it occurred to me that it makes a certain amount of sense.

There are two yooge problems with the show, usually. I mean...there are more than that, but there are two problems that tend to irritate me so much that I largely tune the show out. The first is the entire stupid pretense that the show is about Donald Trump, a very serious businessman, setting up a "job interview" and narrowing people down in an attempt to hire a person who will have a really important job as a manager working in a real-estate company. Having seen everybody from the pretty-smart Bill Rancic to whoever the hell won last time reduced to doing nothing but publicity appearances and a cameo on the next version of the show, it's impossible to even squint and go along with the premise, making it harder and harder to care.

The second problem is the outpouring of obsequiousness directed every single week at Donald Trump, and the show's insistence on pretending that he is some kind of a business genius with wisdom to impart to everyone. He is, in fact, a guy who's lost his shirt multiple times on multiple projects, who is very good at real estate development but very bad at lots of other things, and not necessarily your best bet for day-to-day business advice if you are a normal person and not a mogul. He is basically a professional rich person, which is a perfectly okay thing to be, but when people start pretending he's a genius, it's sick-making.

Both of these problems are largely absent from the celebrity version. There's no illusion that Lennox Lewis wants to win the show so he can run Trump's new bottled-water division, or that Trump is going to lure Carol Alt away from raw-foods proselytizing and put her in a hardhat at one of his apartment buildings. It's just a stunt for charity. It's a game, which is what it always is anyway, only now, they can admit it. It's just a game -- who can get more people to pay five grand for a hot dog? Marilu Henner or Gene Simmons? Okay, that's kind of interesting, and they're basically doing what they say they're doing: trying to outdo each other for (1) charity; (2) attention; and (3) God help us all, bragging rights of whatever type would be convenient at the next party jointly attended by Marilu Henner and Gene Simmons.

Furthermore, none of these people are impressed by Donald Trump in any way except the very, very limited sense that he has a lot of money, and in some cases, they don't even care much about that. Marilu Henner is making so much scratch from her new life as a vegetable-embracing diet guru for young-at-heart suburban grandmas that she could give a hollering hooter about Donald Trump. Lennox Lewis? Piers Morgan, who's a veteran of a bunch of scandals where he gets in fights on the Concorde? The Ultimate Fighting Champion? These people just don't have the unnatural desire to actually impress Donald Trump that everybody else feels obligated to pretend they have. (Okay, Omarosa has it, but that's sheer pettiness, which is different.)

When Stephen Baldwin starts laughing his ass off because Gene Simmons called Omarosa a "cock-a-roach," that's pretty decent TV. And in some strange, world-upside-down way, these tasks actually wind up being kind of merit-based as far as who wins, because there isn't a particularly compelling reason for anything else to happen. When it comes to the firing, the person who's fired is obviously the person who's contributing the least to the TV show, which is the only part that's a little bit less transparent, but how smart do you have to be to know that?

It's not that it's good, exactly, but it's much less annoying than usual. Also: Omarosa is eventually going to get fired, again, and I personally cannot wait.




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The Telefile

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