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A quick defense of casting Real Housewives on Celebrity Apprentice

A quick defense of casting Real Housewives on Celebrity Apprentice
New Celebrity Apprentice cast member Porsha Williams, best known for being on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, pictured here on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live. Synergy! (Photo by Charles Sykes/Bravo)

The Apprentice: Martha Stewart may have given the world Bethenny Frankel, but The Real Housewives franchise is giving The Celebrity Apprentice a lot of its cast. This is perfectly fine, but they also seem to get the most criticism for their presence on the show.

Since the new season eight cast was announced Thursday, there’s been some pushback on social media and elsewhere. As just one example: “I wish they would stop scraping the bottom of the casting barrel with Real Housewives.”

Last season, there were two Bravo stars—Kenya Moore and Brandi Glanville—and this season, there are two more: Porsha Williams and Kyle Richards. With 16 contestants, that’s 12.5 percent of the cast, so not too much. But they’re the most visible and easily targetable of the cast members best known for being on other reality TV shows, and who don’t seem like real celebrities, just convenient quasi-stars who will show up to do another reality show.

I think the Housewives get the majority of this criticism because 1) their casting seems like shameless NBCU cross-promotion, which it is, and 2) they’re viewed as one big post-Kardashians blob, just self-promoting drama factories.

But those things actually contribute to:

Why Real Housewives make great Apprentice cast members

Here’s my brief, three-part argument:

  1. They know how to bring the drama. Yes, Housewives are drama machines. But what wonderful television it can produce, especially when cable TV stars face off against celebrities who have higher opinions of themselves. Just imagine last season without Brandi or Kenya. (Brand versus Kenya! Brandi versus Vivica A. Fox!) It’s entertaining to watch celebrities be challenged by the tasks and by each other, and the Housewives often make sure that happens. And this may be a stretch, but it’s not that different from actual workplaces, where there’s always that person who’s putting drama in the way of work.
  2. They’re savvy marketers and entrepreneurs. Capitalizing on their fame from a cheesy soap opera-style reality show and turning it into real cash is, yes, impressive. (Jealously might explain some of the hate: Who wouldn’t love to rake in cash for going on glamorous vacations and arguing with pretend friends assembled by producers?) It also means they bring actual skills to The Celebrity Apprentice tasks. And, sure, sometimes they bring a perception that they have skills, which feeds back to #1.
  3. They can defend their actions. Not only are the Housewives cast members used to fighting for the camera’s attention and each other, but they’re well-practiced in defending their behavior. Besides the regular reality TV interviews, there are producer-orchestrated conversations (let’s have lunch and talk about what mean things we said about each other!) in which they have to make their case. But nothing prepares them for The Celebrity Apprentice’s boardroom more than the reunions, where they face withering questions Andy Cohen reads off cards. More significantly, they face intense questioning about their behavior—on and off the show—from their peers.

Together, these three things mean that Real Housewives are entertaining, they’re skilled team members, and they are formidable Boardroom opponents. Thus, they’re great Apprentice cast members.

I look forward to seeing what Porsha and Kyle bring to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Apprentice.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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