The first-ever all-star Celebrity Apprentice concluded with Donald Trump breaking from tradition and selecting the finalist seated to his right, Trace Adkins, as the winner of the $250,000 prize, which goes to his charity, the American Red Cross.
Overall, Adkins raised $1,554,072 for American Red Cross, while Penn Jillette raised $698,655 for Opportunity Village, according to NBC. Jillette’s total for his charity, which helps people with intellectual disabilities get jobs, included $100,000 for having the best-selling Walgreens ice cream. As a reality TV character and contestant, I liked Penn better, and wish he’d won, but Trace made a compelling argument for why he should win, not that Donald Trump has ever used evidence in his decision-making.
Overall, the celebrities raised $3.332 million for charity, some of which came from the show and its sponsors. Trump also gave Lil Jon $100,000 for the American Diabetes Association, apparently as a way to make up for firing him for no actual reason.
But the celebrities also dragged down the show. The money raised for charity is the high point in a season that really sucked the life out of the franchise by retreading familiar ground and giving us nothing new in its returning celebrities, who we already knew and/or were really sick of. Its ratings recovered, but NBC didn’t give it a vote of confidence by saying a renewal decision would come in the future.
I think the format still has the potential to recover, if the show can find the right cast, and also pull back a little: for starters, the live spectacle finale is pointless, because Donald Trump is no Jeff Probst, and also the show no longer justifies a live finale. I’d rather have more standard discussion and decision-making at the end of an episode rather than hear the live audience make noise.
The show needs a bold shake-up, and I’d start with replacing Donald Trump with Ivanka. He’s a complete asshole who alienates viewers. She’s much smarter, more engaging, and a better judge, one who can get past the bullshit and really weigh evidence.
Trump could still make appearances and pretend it’s his show, but it never will be the show it once was (and still is in his mind), because his shtick is tired.
Here’s the fascinating thing: Despite Trump’s irrationality, the show remains an authentic competition, just one that literally has no rules. Penn Jillette told Hitfix that the show is “capricious and arbitrary but all that is out front,” and insisted “Every other reality show I’d ever done, and I’d done a bunch of ‘em, were deeply dishonest. And The Celebrity Apprentice isn’t. Everything is straightforward. They don’t even redo things. You know, on every other reality show they say, say that same thing but over here. They don’t do that.”
The world needs more authentic series, and again, the format has a lot of life left in it. It just needs to fire the right person.
The cast appeared on Katie Couric’s talk show Wednesday, and did a good job of proving why they are entirely the reason why the show works, and why it’s going to be all but impossible to duplicate its success (though a lot of networks will be trying, ugh).
They played a version of Family Feud (during which the Swamp People cast members demonstrated some remarkable Kardashian knowledge) and told stories about the show’s origin. They’re not exactly new to doing media or interviews, and are obviously confortable in front of cameras, but still, they’re funny and charming and comfortable with being themselves, and that works.
Later on the episode, some blowhard talked for a few minutes about why rural reality shows are popular right now:
The Celebrity Apprentice’s sixth season concludes Sunday, and it may be easy to tell who which of the final two celebrities will win the prize for their charity: that’s because Donald Trump has always chosen the celebrity sitting on his left as the show’s winner.
NineDaves noticed and illustrated this fascinating phenomenon and wrote, “Why on earth would production be so stupid to put the winner in the exact same spot, season in and season out?”
Maybe because that’s how Trump remembers who he’s supposed to choose? It’s possible this could just be a five-time coincidence, but if Trump does pick the person on the left Sunday night, that will be crazy/predictable.
The final two are Trace Adkins and Penn Jillette; both are strong finalists, and not just because they’re not grating and annoying like some of their competitors. As more than one person pointed out this season, Trace kind of checked out and sleepwalked through part of it, so I’d rather see Penn win, and not just because he dished great dirt on Trump and the production.
News that Top Chef received $200,000 from the oil spill fund the Deepwater Horizon disaster has prompted controversy and a debate of sorts between Bravo VP Andy Cohen, chef Anthony Bourdain, and TV auteur David Simon.
All of this was significant enough to prompt Bravo to respond last night, defending its actions by posting a statement from the city’s marketing office that says its money didn’t come from the oil spill fund:
“The New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation is giving $175,000 to invest in bringing Top Chef to New Orleans. Our investment came from our normal budget, which we planned for, not BP dollars. The BP dollars we have received are being used for our summer online advertising campaign, per our grant request for those funds.”
While that may be accurate, Bravo’s use of it as a defense is utter bullshit, though very clever. That’s because no one is talking about the $175,000 the city paid; the original newspaper report about the funding said it was “$200,000 from the Louisiana Office of Tourism, $175,000 from the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp” and noted that “The state’s Top Chef contribution will come from a recovery fund established by BP after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”
So, again, the controversy has always been about the state’s $200,000 contribution, which Bravo’s blog post ignores. Earlier this week, Anthony Bourdain suggested Bravo give back the $200,000 and offered a charity that’d be worthy of the money. Bourdain added, “My point was not that taking $$ was ‘wrong’ but that given circumstances and perception, a give-back would be a nice gesture.”
Andy Cohen’s response/defense said the money is designated for tourism, and then referenced “Treme’s tax credits from NOLA.” Bourdain was a writer on Treme, and that comment earned the attention of David Simon, the creator of the HBO series Treme (and other shows, such as The Wire), who received an e.mail from Bourdain about it.
And that’s when David Simon crushed Andy Cohen. Simon responded in a blog post titled Why I don’t tweet. Example #47, that included this epic line:
“I can’t be entirely indifferent to the shitty-ass, reach-around snark of some fellow who rushes to throw under the bus people about whom he has no knowledge whatsoever — and does so to gain a dishonest point in a fucking tweet war.”
Simon wrote, “I really don’t care what ‘Top Chef’ or Bravo does or doesn’t do,” but pointed out that HBO gave money to “to underwrite a long-term campaign by Treme to raise money for a series of 501c3 charities in New Orleans” that eventually raised more than $500,000.” And he disputed Andy Cohen’s point that there was any parallel:
“Mr. Cohen was not content to argue the merits or flaws of Mr. Bourdain’s point, or, for that matter, the merits or flaws of taking the funds in the first place. Instead, Mr. Cohen rushes to drag the Treme production into his defense, citing, in apples-to-oranges fashion, the fact that we have availed ourselves of the same Louisiana tax incentives that are standardized to every film production in that state.
For Mr. Cohen to flippantly imply that because HBO failed somehow to refuse the same tax rates that Louisiana offers to every production, we are in the same boat as ‘Top Chef’ and its extended negotiations for a BP payout is just, well, horseshit. Snide works well and seems plausible in 140-character morsels. When laid out in detail, it’s something altogether different. Sorry, but if Mr. Cohen is any kind of mensch and thinks about it for a little longer than it takes to type the first thing on his mind, he’ll see that an apology is owed.”
Andy’s only reply so far: “congratulations. we all love NOLA & want to bring as much business, tourism & attention to the city,chefs & gulf seafood.”
Alas, he seems to have forgotten about the business and attention he wants to bring to Bravo.
The Voice will keep all six of its judges next year, including Usher and Shakira, who have been the subject of reports in recent days suggesting they’re leaving. Instead, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton will be on both seasons, while CeeLo Green and Christina Aguilera will appear in the fall with Usher and Shakira replacing them in the spring, just like this year. EW reported the news, noting that “NBC is finalizing deals with Shakira and Usher,” meaning it’s not 100 percent locked in yet.
Usher and Shakira have been remarkable additions to the show: the panel’s chemistry has been as strong as its initial panel, and arguably even stronger, depending upon your feelings about Christina. (Compare that to American Idol, which has just stuck people with names at the judges’ table and hoped it would work, and it just hasn’t, even when there are strong individuals.)
While, as EW points out, some have argued that Usher and Shakira should be permanent judges, I agree that it’s smart to keep the configuration the same. NBC took a big risk airing two seasons a year. Last fall, I was a little tired of the show and format, since a season with the same judges had just concluded a few months earlier. Switching between two sets of judges with similarly strong but still different chemistry makes it seem less like one endless, year-long season and instead gives us something to look forward to.
Update, 17 May 2013: NBC confirmed this today, meaning deals have been done for all four judges. NBC entertainment chair Bob Greenblatt said in a press release statement, “We’re very fortunate to have these six incredible artists to weave in and out of the show as their performing and recording schedules permit. The show has taken off largely due to the rapport and commitment of these great coaches, in addition to the expert hosting of Carson Daly.”
In the aftermath of the Survivor Caramaon reunion drama, with the eight pre-merge contestants being excluded, there’s been a lot of conversation about whether that improved or weakened the reunion. Jeff Probst was defensive in his explanation, offering a weak excuse and saying their goal is “to produce the best reunion show we can.”
While excluding almost half the cast is a dramatic shift, the reunion hasn’t been at its best in years. What Jeff Probst is interested in talking about or focusing on is increasingly not what I care about.
In the early days of Survivor, the show didn’t use its own host as host of its reunions. Bryant Gumbel hosted the first three, back when the show was a ratings and pop culture phenomenon, and although he probably brought a bit of credibility, he lacked passion and, you know, knowledge. Rosie O’Donnell hosted the fourth season’s reunion, and it’s there the show discovered the value in having someone who cares about the show ask questions of the fans.
Over the early years, Jeff Probst became more of a proxy for viewers during Tribal Councils, asking the obvious but unspoken questions that we were shouting from our couches. Eventually, though, that shifted, either because of the players’ savvy or Probst’s increasing desperation, grandstanding, and ego.
That’s spilled over into the reunions, where Probst often all but ignores the winner, especially if the winner has a vagina, to focus on things he’s interested in, even if they aren’t really the things I care about as a viewer.
I want to know more about the season I just watched. I want to know more about the winner’s strategy from day one. I want to know about hidden alliances. I want unfiltered, unedited, straight-from-their-mouths comments, good and bad. I want to know how the game affected them in real life. I want to know what they thought of their edit, or of the challenges, or of Probst being a dick to them, unless they are an alpha male, in which case they can talk about what it’s like to be Probst’s bro.
Of course, maybe most viewers don’t care about these things and I’m alone. At the very least, it feels like the reunion is focusing more and more on time-wasting bullshit. And while there’s no need to give everyone equal time—with all due respect to the lovely cast members, I don’t really give a shit if they’re moving in with each other, or got new shoes or whatever—there should be a better use of time than talking to a kid in the audience and pimping Boston Rob’s self-published book. It’s one thing to ask Rob about Phillip’s strategy and annoying behavior; another to give him a platform to grandstand.
The reunion’s increasing pointlessness was highlighted today when CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler revealed during CBS’ upfront presentation that the new season will feature “the return of great characters and their relatives.”
The reunion teased season 27, and I can see the value of teasing it and milking the reveal for months, even if we’ve known the twist for more than a month. But if they were going to tell the media less than three days later, why not, after revealing its (ridiculous) name, Survivor Blood vs. Water, have Probst spend a few seconds talking about the twist, perhaps explaining why they decided to do this? Or elaborate on his rationale for relying on returnees?
Probst may have his own Twitter account, talk show, and lifeline to EW, but the reunion is by far the biggest platform of the year in part because it reaches all viewers, not just the fraction of viewers who are superfans and think they’re the only people who watch. So it’s a real opportunity to explain and offer insight. That’s what would make the best reunion show, and Probst and company can easily deliver that if they want to.
Survivor’s reunion ignored every contestant who didn’t make the jury, and that will probably be the case for future reunions, too, giving the show more time for host Jeff Probst to talk to random audience members and fawn over his bros. But they weren’t excluded for creative reasons; instead, it was because there wasn’t enough room on the set. In addition, Probst said that Brandon Hantz agreed that it wouldn’t be a good idea for him to be there.
Those dubious claims are in Probst’s interview with EW’s Dalton Ross, who meets with a surprisingly and/or jokingly hostile Probst by questioning the decision to give someone a huge advantage for the final immunity challenge (“that’s the decision we made and I can tell you that we will probably do it again. How ya like them apples?”). Here’s what Probst said about Brandon and the non-jury cast:
“Regarding Brandon, we had a conversation and everyone, including Brandon, felt this was the best decision. Regarding the jury, the main reason was staging. We were on a new stage this year and our design couldn’t accommodate the usual enormous amount of people we have at the reunion. But having done it once, we may do this same configuration again in the future. The truth is, it’s very difficult to manage 20 people in an interview situation, and the staging last night was much more manageable. The hardest part of all of this is that it is so disappointing to the non-jury. I completely empathize with them feeling left out. Like it or not, the priority is for us to produce the best reunion show we can. Quite often when someone is voted out early they just don’t have enough story to warrant a spot on the reunion show. It doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving people, they just didn’t get to play long enough.”
First, Probst’s claim that Brandon also didn’t want to show up was pretty much contradicted by Russell Hantz, who of course is an entirely trustworthy and objective source.
Others are privately making the point that they brought guests to L.A. at their own expense, had to meet exacting wardrobe requirements (which for one person, included frantically buying new clothes), and then were completely ignored. That is a fair argument, thought in the past contestants have also been paid $10,000 just to attend the reunion, in addition to the prize money they receive depending upon when they were voted out.