Celebrity Apprentice starts with a big donation but little drama

The Celebrity Apprentice was promoted with several ads that made fun of the show for using charity as an excuse for reality TV drama. It was a clever way to acknowledge that, while charities really do benefit from the pretty incredible fundraising that happens on the show, the real entertainment comes from watching them attempt challenges, and either falling apart or succeeding in wildly unexpected ways.

Alas, that equation was flipped for the show’s premiere, which had a single challenge in a two-hour episode, and one that was entirely about fundraising. These episodes are always the weakest, because the actual task–making sandwiches in this case–doesn’t really matter, and people don’t fully engage.

American Chopper‘s Paul Teutul, Sr., raised $305,000 from one person, taking his team’s dismal $27,120 total to $367,120, which included $35,000 from a taste-test contest, easily beating the women’s $126,962. Although they did more as a team, Trump still had to fire someone, and it’s not that fun to watch him take down someone for no reason. Thankfully, Cheryl Tiegs basically quit, making it easy on him but depriving us. You know that an episode is working hard for drama when a commercial cliffhanger is about Tia Carrere saying she’d be okay being brought back into the boardroom.

I’m convinced this is a great cast, though, so I’m willing to forgive a weak episode–especially since donation episodes are always the show’s weakest, and because the drama tends to take a while to truly erupt.

And there was a lot of great stuff that happened throughout the two hours, like Arsenio Hall saying that Ruben Studdard told him, “brother, don’t be the first black man to lose to Clay.” Or Aubrey O’Day saying, “I have a tendency to be heavily charming, so I am an amazing candidate for being out on the streets.” (She ended with “…to get people to come into the restaurant,” but it’s more fun without that.)

Adam Carolla was especially funny, which surprised me the most; after Trump said, “I loved Diddy,” he pretended he was Trump and said, “I love Dinky and all of them folks.” And Adam had the balls to call out Paul Teutul, Sr., who called out “three minority groups” when, as project manager, he was asked to identify his weakest links and said George Takei and Arsenio Hall.

With two gay men this season, we’ll probably get lots more of Trump stumbling over himself to express solidarity with the gays, which is always hilarious even when it’s poignant–like when Trump criticized Paul Teutul, Sr., for calling George Takei “meek,” leading to a moment when Takei discussed growing up in a barbed wire-enclosed internment camp.

Next week, they go to Medieval Times and Teresa Giudice flips a table. But Mark Burnett and company had me at George Takei, especially when he said, “By George, I’m George Takei, dammit!”

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