So four weeks in I finally caught up with season 15 of Celebrity Apprentice; having heard about the Twitterverse squabbles between its new host and that other guy. I should preface by saying that overall I’m not a huge fan of Celebrity Apprentice. I much prefer the original UK version of the programme, BBC Apprentice, hosted by Lord Alan Sugar, an indisputably successful businessman and member of the House of Lords. BBC Apprentice remains truer to the original format of the show, real people looking to be mentored by one of the world’s most respected entrepreneurs. Learning from a master so to speak. In the US, The Apprentice morphed into Celebrity Apprentice in its seventh season, and since then we’ve watched what’s usually the car-crash interactions of egotistical B/C/D list celebrities, aging athletes and random models and television presenters.
At first I could’t quite put my finger on what felt different, but something certainly did. Then I realized what it was, the host wasn’t sucking all the oxygen out of the room with his own ego. He actually listens when others speak, he has an easy, genuine charm, he’s not socially stunted. Arnold Schwarzenegger has nothing to prove because he’s a legitimate self-made success who has never declared bankruptcy. He’s not walking around with a raging narcissistic complex and massive chip on his shoulder. But to be fair, he’s not suffering from obvious self-esteem issues caused from dealing daily with the fact that he’ll never be as respected or well-liked as either his dead father or his White House predecessor. And speaking of facts, despite ‘alternative ones’ to the contrary, Celebrity Apprentice ratings under Schwarzenegger are growing after a slow start, whereas they declined season upon season previously. Something that NBC executives have been candid about. If NBC and Mark Burnett really want to boost viewership they should release the outtakes from Trump’s previous seasons. The ones former show producer, Bill Pruitt has said are far worse than the now infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.
This “new & improved” version of the show is not without its faults. Schwarzenegger insists on being addressed as Governor, despite having left office six years ago. This season’s celebrities are a particularly motley crew (making Vince Neil’s participation almost ironic). There are several reality show housewives, numerous retired athletes, a physician turned comedian, and a YouTuber (Carrie Keagan) who was the first to be “terminated”. Perhaps she would have lasted longer if she hadn’t greeted Arnold’s waxing sentimentally about his 19-year old self with the comment, “I wish I had been alive then.” The only one approaching star status is Boy George…and I think Laila Ali has had a respectable level of personal and public success too. But yeah, they’re reaching. This Monday’s episode included a moment of drama when Schwarzenegger terminated unpopular and pugnacious mixed martial arts artist, Chael Sonnen after discovering he deliberately sabotaged equipment in order to give his team an unfair advantage and then defended his action as a great “tactic”. Imagine that, a loud-mouth bully cheating and then patting himself on the back for it. Hmm…
Who knows how long before Schwarzenegger says “hasta la vista, baby.” Maybe one day when Trump’s time on Pennsylvania Avenue is over — he’ll be back! Of course, given that he’s already alienated virtually every celebrity on the planet, he’ll have to get creative. Maybe a season of Apprentice full of women Trump has married, committed adultery with, insulted or (allegedly) sexually assaulted. Bet that would be a ratings….grabber.