Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How Fake (and how Boring) is this year's Celebrity Apprentice?

On Sunday night's installment of the Celebrity Apprentice, the 14 remaining contestants, on the Athena (women's) and KOTU (men's) teams, were tasked with selling wedding dresses.

It would seem like a task MADE for Dennis Rodman (who ended up being a no-show on the big day, much to Tom Green's chagrin).  And that would seem to make it guaranteed interesting TV.

But that's the problem with this celebrity installment.  As a hater of most reality shows, I used to herald The Apprentice as an exception, because it seemed to impart some actual business lessons (or at least office common sense) to its contestants, who were presented with challenges where their business plan and its subsequent results really matter.

Here, on the Celebrity version, it's all about who you know.  Don't feel like really selling those cupcakes?  Call a famous friend to send you a big fat check.  Not into the wedding gown thing?  Call Girls Gone Wild producer Joe Francis, who'll be happy to fork over 5 grand for a bit of national publicity.  At these (tax-deductible, since it's "for charity") prices, it's TV's biggest advertising bargain.

As a result, no contestant really needs to know anything, or really follow the directions of the task at hand.  Why bother even designing your wedding dress showroom if you know you're just going to hit up other celebs for donations anyway?  And the show suffers as a result.  It's fun to watch Joan Rivers peddle cupcakes.  It's not fun to watch Clint Black man his cell phone.

And here's the other part that bugged me on Sunday night.  We all know that those cab rides at the end, with the "fired" contestant, are faked, right?  That seems like a concession for TV, to give the Fired One time to confess his or her sins.  But on Sunday, here's what happened:  Tom Green overslept/spent time banging on Rodman's hotel room door, whichever version you believe.  As a result, the rest of the KOTU team left in the van without them.

When Tom did step out of the hotel, another van awaited, and he rode alone down to the showroom.  Now here's the thing.  The hotel (which by the way -- they used to stay in Trump Tower.  Since when have they been at the Trump International building, as shown this year?) is on Columbus Circle, on the west side.  The wedding dress showroom was also on the west side.  As far as I could tell, it was in the low 20s; restaurant Elmo, where Rodman and Herschel Walker stop for drinks "in the neighborhood," is at 20th St. & 7th Ave.

So if Tom Green's van was traveling from the hotel to the showroom, straight down the west side, what possible route could have taken it past the distinctive blue facade of 150 E. 42nd Street, which is on the east side between Lexington and 3rd Aves.?  (I'd know that building anywhere -- I worked there for 7 years.)  Something's fishy about that whole thing.  It seems like Tom's van ride was staged, just like those end-of-show confessional cabs.  NBC, what gives?

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