Dear NBC: Renew Apprentice but replace Donald Trump with Ivanka

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.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.