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"Celebrity Apprentice" and a Night of Normal Viewing

By admin Published: January 4, 2008

Both us being weary, the bride and I spent last night watching TV like regular folks -- right down to watching early-evening reruns of "Two and a Half Men" instead of a DVD or a preview disc of some new show.

All right, we fudged a little, watching a bit of the fabulous recent "Man From UNCLE" box. What a time capsule. But beyond that we found ourselves channel-flipping in search of some modest entertainment that would not make us feel guilty for dozing off.

Which eventually led to "Celebrity Apprentice." ...


First, the basic news: Playboy pinup Tiffany Fallon was the first "celebrity" fired, having been handed her lunch in the board room by the dreaded Omarosa. (More about her in a moment.) Fallon was not even in the game when it came to the smart, aggressive women populating the "Celeb Apprentice" team.

Even worse, she was caught in Trump's headlights for not exploiting her connection to Hugh Hefner. (The contestants raised money by selling hot dogs and some, including Gene Simmons and Marilu Henner, called on rich friends to spend five figures on hot dogs. Fallon contended she wanted to save the Hefner card for later in the competition, while Trump -- obviously enthusiastic about exploiting anything -- felt she should have used Hefner now.)

But enough about the results. Was the show worth watching? Keeping in mind that I was really only three-fourths watching, while doing some things online, it was fine. In fact, it kept me around longer than the "Apprentice" has for a long time. In most recent rounds, I have watched a bit, thought "I've seen all this before" and moved on.

I think the "celebrity" hook, however dubious, is one reason that I didn't mind it as much. If the names and faces are recognizable -- well, some of them anyway -- then we have a vague sense of their personalities. So the show as a storyteller, and we as viewers, don't have to spend as much time establishing characters and a narrative.

Since we may have already made personal judgments about Simmons or Henner or Vincent Pastore or Stephen Baldwin, then we go into the show with an idea of whom we would like to win or lose, and are therefore involved in the show much earlier. (Think of reality competitions where it takes you weeks just to sort out the contestants, let alone pick a favorite.)

The celebrity element also changes the relationship between the players and Trump. Sure, he has the power to fire. But he's not holding a career opportunity over some wide-eyed youngster. Nor are these players going to ooh and ahh over the toys in Trump's life. They have big toys of their own.

But the problem with "Celebrity Apprentice" is, once again, Omarosa.

Yes, the makers of "The Apprentice" think her nastiness and self-absorption make her good television. But they also make her a terrible game player and "Apprentice" is still a game.

Omarosa is not in it to win it in the traditional sense. She is on "Celebrity Apprentice" to maximize her screen time and the attention focused on her. Her insistence that her team not use celebrity to sell its hot dogs was a disastrous move -- unless you're Omarosa and you don't want to do anything to bring attention to contestants who would prove to be better known than you are. Same thing with desexualizing the team; it's a way of diverting attention from any bombshells and toward Omarosa. Even those stupid caps worked to her advantage, since the name "Omarosa" on the front is more likely to ring a bell with passers-by than a bland, generic "Tiff."

That gave delicious irony the boardroom discussion of using fame and sex to sell the product. Of course you use those things to sell. Isn't that what "Celebrity Apprentice" is -- an attempt to use fame and sex to promote a struggling TV franchise?

Only Omarosa is playing for herself. And it doesn't take long for her act to get tiresome. She wasn't going to get fired on Thursday night because the show and Trump think she does deliver good TV. But the longer she sticks around, the more boring her act will be.

So would I watch this again? Probably. Not in an "oh, I must set the DVR" way, although there's potential for that, especially if, say, Baldwin gets really goofy. But definitely in a, "there's nothing else on" way.

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