The Celebrity Apprentice, which is now airing its second season, is easily the best celebrity reality show on the air because its format and tasks allow us to really see celebrities for who they really are.
That they tend to be even more type-A than the contestants in the non-celebrity version makes the show work, so their egos get them into more trouble and more drama. The best part, though, is the way the series drops the celebrities down to an average-person level, which is to say it essentially cuts them down.
While the show treats the celebs well–they stay in a hotel, not Trump Tower, and get to take off for other engagements–the tasks are often subtly or not-so-subtly demeaning, which is the show’s fun (for us) mean streak. Last night, the celebrities had to learn how to clean and make up hotel rooms, and basically serve obnoxious hotel guests–from a room of unruly attention-whore gay men to Vincent Pastore–at the Loews Regency. As annoying as the obviously coached requests were (whatever you want, they’ll get for you!), I’d imagine more than a few of the cast members have made similar requests in the past, and take the people who do those tasks for granted.
Doing that work shows us who they are and what they’re really made of. Melissa Rivers, for example, commented on a dirty hotel room she had to clean by saying, “That’s no fair to make me do it.” Meanwhile, Jesse James told the camera, “I de-pubed the toilet. When you check into a nice hotel, you want to think your pubes are the only one that’s going to hit the seat, right?”
Because of his humble, quiet nature and awesome one-liners, Jesse (G.) James has turned himself into the show’s breakout star. Nearly all of the celebrities surprise us on some level, from Tom Green, who became Canadian of the Week for his surprising mix of juvenile humor and seriousness on the show, to Deal or No Deal model Claudia Jordan, who gave the Rivers women quite a fight before getting fired last week (unsurprising, since there’s no way Trump would keep her and get rid of either Joan or Melissa).
We also now know that Brian McKnight is a sexist ass, and Joan Rivers is a super-protective mother. There are other details, too, like the fact that Dennis Rodman doesn’t know how to tie a tie and prefers to drink a vodka cranberry. Those drinks, though, were more than an amusing detail. Last night’s show ended with a lingering title card that gave Alcoholics Anonymous’ web site address and said “for problems with alcohol abuse,” and it was a good indication of how bad things were.
During the episode, Dennis Rodman finished trashing his reputation and was finally fired. He’s been this season’s real wild-card, and has essentially bailed on, quit, or failed to show up for long parts of every task this season. Last week, he picked a fight with Clint Black for no apparent reason, saying, “You think you’re the shit, right bro? … Oh, fuck you man, fuck you,” and then insisting it was “a team game,” threw his mic pack to the ground and stormed out.
What caused all that crazy behavior? “It’s obvious Dennis has a drinking problem,” Jesse James said during the boardroom, and pretty much everyone agreed, including Dennis, who said, “Having a drinking problem has nothing to do with–when you was 14 years old,” indicating Jesse James, “you had a drinking problem, so you know what, that’s kind of cool, I like that.”
But it wasn’t cool, and Jesse James–again! he’s pretty much the most articulate person there, and this makes me excited for his upcoming Spike series Jesse James Is a Dead Man–pointed out that there was great contrast between Herschel Walker, who’s “better than you expect” in person, and Dennis Rodman, who’s “a little bit of disappointment, and I’m sad for him for that.”
Dennis said something about everyone being “threatened” by him and said “outside this show, I can kick anybody’s ass at anything,” so he clearly doesn’t have a clue, especially since he asked “how did I win five championships?” Clearly, not by walking out of every game. Trump said in a previous episode that he has a “persecution complex,” and that seems to be true, as he’d overreact to nearly everything.
“You let me down, you let yourself down, you let your team down,” Trump said and fired him, and although he couched it in praise–the single most annoying part of the spin-off version is the way Trump slobbers all over every about-to-be-fired celebrity’s ass–it was more striking criticism than he usually offers.
The only possible redemption came during Dennis’ car service ride of shame, when he said, “I have no excuse for what happened, I have no excuses. I have to take that bullet and go home and heal the wounds and come back stronger than ever.” The best way to prove that would be to return to the show, if it returns for a third season–and since the ratings are kind of crap so that may not be likely. That’s too bad, because while our culture is fond of tearing down celebrities, rarely do we get to see them so raw and real. And we have Donald Trump, of all people, to thank for that.