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NBC – The Celebrity Apprentice

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“Celebrity Apprentice, is like getting an expedited MBA from Trump University.” Ian Ziering

By: Valerie Milano

Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 2/17/15 – The grand finale of Celebrity Apprentice aired Monday night. A barometer of how successful the show has become is its time slot. Celebrity Apprentice has been bestowed the honor of keeping the seat warm for mega-hit The Voice until its return next Monday. The show has been renewed for another season. A success that even Donald Trump’s revolting presence cannot sully. 

celebrity-apprentice-tcaCelebrity Apprentice is equal parts soap opera, reality show and morality play. It’s also a fascinating study in psychology. A-listers won’t go near the show. However, what you do see is C-list actors, aging TV personalities, retired athletes, faded starlets, reality show cast-offs, comics, boy-band refugees, retired supermodels and all manner of show-biz bottom feeders reduced to piss fighting  in a manner that would never be allowed by their publicists under normal conditions. However, none of this matters because they’re generating boatloads of cash for charity ($250,000 to the winner). Moreover, success on this show has been proven to resuscitate stagnant careers in a big way. Just ask Piers Morgan, Brett Michaels or Gary Busey.

This year’s Celebrity Apprentice also featured a boardroom Battle of The Sexes subplot. The predominantly male Team Vortex vs. The alpha-fem Team Infinity. The men all got along reasonably well and lost regularly. The women squalled and fought like cats in a bag and clobbered the men. There’s a sociological message in there somewhere, but I’ll be damned what it is.

The men’s pool can always be counted on to produce one alpha-male megalomaniac and this year’s model was Geraldo Rivera. He co-opted every task assigned his team and drove his team into the ditch on virtually every assignment that didn’t involve buttonholing his Fox friends for cash. The exception being, when eventual winner Leeza Gibbons switched teams and halted Team Vortex’s embarrassing losing streak.

The feminine side always produces one arch-villain that will say or do anything to win; and this year it was ‘Housewife from Atlanta’ Kenya Moore’s turn. Her “divide and conquer” strategy got her pretty deep into the competition until she ended up on Team Vortex and crossed talons with Vivica Fox. Kenya was an abysmal project manager and had to fend off credible accusations that she pilfered Fox’s cellphone to implant a message that Vivian was off her game because she was on menopause.

Gilbert Gottfried delivered the sound bite of this or any other season when he addressed Trump as “… Mein Fuhrer”. Gottfried got fired soon after.

Joan Rivers started the season as one of the judging executives until her tragic death after two episodes; her tribute in the finale added a bitter sweet coda to the season.

In the end, Leeza Gibbons was the class of the field. She was smart enough to remain neutral during the catfights and Zen enough to channel the manic energy coursing through her team. She was an impact player from start to finish. And, despite the Donald’s passive aggressive sexism during the final boardroom, she made it impossible for him choose any competitor but her. Compassion, smarts and positivity triumphed over bluster, braggadocio and bullshit. Kudos to Leeza. Any other result would have sunk the credibility of the franchise.

The Hollywoodtimes.net, the TCA and other publications spoke had the opportunity at the beginning of the season to speak to Geraldo Rivera, Kate Gosselin, executive producer Mark Burnett, and Kenya Moore. In the front row, we have Vivica A. Fox, Brandi Glanville, executive producer and host Donald Trump, Lorenzo Lamas, Ian Ziering, and Leeza Gibbons. We welcome your questions.

Celebrity contestant Ian Ziering talked about his involvement in the reality genre in general and Celebrity Apprentice in particular, IAN ZIERING: “I’m not necessarily a fan of reality programming. I was involved with Dancing with the Stars. That was an opportunity for me to learn a skill, to do something I’ve never done before, to challenge myself. With Celebrity Apprentice, this is like getting an expedited MBA from Trump University. The whole gist of the show is enabling me to win a lot of money for a charity that I’m very passionate about. So it wasn’t about ego. This was an opportunity for me to do good things for other people.”

Donald Trump spoke to the issue of the lag time between seasons 7 and 8. Specifically, whether it was NBC’s lack of confidence in the show that caused the delay, DONALD TRUMP: “No I don’t think so. I mean, they were calling me all the time. I just it’s very hard for me to find yeah, it takes a long time and a lot of time to do this show. And I think NBC always liked it. I was very happy, and I was always pushing and so was Mark. The concept of the one hour show to me was very important. I just think two hours is too long for one show. Nobody wants to watch an hour and twenty minutes of a task. And the thing that does best, as you all know, is the boardroom. That’s what people like the best. But when you have to go through a task for an hour and twenty minutes, that’s a lot of television to watch a task.”

Geraldo Rivera was asked about his first foray into reality TV, GERALDO RIVERA: “ I have tremendous faith in Mr. Trump and in Mark Burnett, of course. You can’t find two executive producers who have had more hits. I had faith in them. I’ve never done a reality show. I’ve been in television. This is deep into my fifth decade in television. I had never done one. And when they asked, I asked Roger Ailes, my boss. He said give it a whirl, so that’s why we’re here.”

Rivera went on to discuss the show’s appeal, “And I think that one of the reasons the audience is digging it is that there is — whatever you say about editing or presentation or who’s the villain and who’s the hero — you see enough real life emotion and passion and deception and backstabbing and backbiting and collegial consort, people working together to accomplish a goal. You see all the a mini version of human life being acted out right before your very eyes.”

Leeza Gibbons spoke about the motivations as a business woman and philanthropist, LEEZA GIBBONS: The Trump Organization and Celebrity Apprentice has given away $15 million to charities. That is such a sizeable contribution, not to mention I love business. I love the language of business. My charity is a business that I run. I’m an entrepreneur as well as being a social entrepreneur. That is a tremendous opportunity for people to take the stage.”

Donald Trump spoke about the presence of Joan Rivers and her impact on the series, DONALD TRUMP: “One of the things with Joan that’s so great, she won when she was 76 years old. She won Celebrity Apprentice. A lot of people forget, but actually she did a documentary. Her career was not doing well, and now her career you know, her career went through the roof after. She was 76 years old. She had more strength, more brain power. I’ll never forget. We had athletes. We had a baseball player that hit 400 foot home runs. We had a wrestler. We had an MMA guy. They were exhausted after a couple weeks, and Joan was like killing. And she won and she was amazing. And that’s why she came back as a judge, actually. That’s why we wanted her back as a judge.”