Celebrity Apprentice, the Kinda One-Third(ish) of the Way Performance Reviews: The Business of Celebrity Business is Celebrityby Mike DeGeorge -- 02/07/2008
In case you have been wondering (and bless you if you have), I took a self-imposed exile from all things reality TV, which included RNO. In a classic good news/bad news situation, I got a yuuuuge promotion at work, but that left my already busy schedule and frazzled mind in absolute tatters. But Iím back, if only temporarily.
Regular readers may remember that I was incredibly jazzed about The Apprentice when it first started. I thought it was the perfect show - Survivor for business people. In the beginning, thatís what it was, but it became more about Donald Trump (who letís just say Iíve never been overly impressed with in the first place and leave it at that, otherwise this column will be twice as long) and his famous friends than it was about business itself.
Then came Celebrity Apprentice. Theoretically, one would imagine that it would be the business version of Dancing with the Stars, where celebrities would be forced out of their element and excel in a field that they normally wouldnít have anything to do with. After all, most celebrities have agents and managers and assistants to help them with their real business dealings. And failing that, many of the celebrities chosen had a background in business, Tito Ortiz and Gene Simmons being two examples, so at least youíd have celebrities showing their business smarts. But no. Instead, it became exactly what I feared Ė Donaldís ego imprinted onto 14 contestants competing to see who can wave their, um, black books the hardest.
Thatís the failing of the show, the challenges. When you have celebrities with contacts willing to drop $10,000 (for charity or no), you should have ZERO tasks where raising money is the deciding factor. The exception, of course, is the inevitable retread of the ďcelebrity auctionĒ challenge from seasons past. To find out the most business-savvy executive, you need to find out who can use their celebrity best, not who can get someone to pay $50 or $100 or $10,000 for a hot dog. (And one wonders how much Sam from the first season fumes over such overpaying) Getting a big one-time sale is great, but to make money, one has to have a good product and be able to sell it. Thatís not whatís going on here. But then again, since when have the challenges on this show had anything to do with real life business situations?
As in the past, Iíll give advice to members of both teams, what theyíre doing right or wrong, and what they need to do to win.
First off, I love the name. Taking your name from a mythological beast is usually a good idea, especially when itís one that could only be killed by Heracles (and even he needed help). The symbolic concept of ďcut off one head and two more grow backĒ is perfect for an elimination show like The Apprentice, where youíre basically saying ďweíre one unit made up of smaller units, none of which is more important than another.Ē Of course, thatís not true, but hey.
Tito: Iím a huge UFC fan, so letís start with one of the two main reasons I started watching this season.
Tito, youíre in trouble for a lot of reasons. For someone known as ďThe Huntington Beach Bad Boy,Ē youíve hardly made a peep, letting yourself get overshadowed by literally everyone else on the team. Even when you were PM, it seemed Stephen did most of the planning.
I mentioned before that a lot of these challenges are based on your famous friends. Itís not right, but thatís how it is. Uh-oh. What will your response be in the boardroom when Donald asks why you didnít call up your friends with the UFC? ďUm, because they all hate me?Ē You and UFC President Dana White almost had a legitimate fight, which was only called off for contractual reasons, and bad mouth him at every opportunity. Chuck Liddell told the world in his book exactly how he feels about you (hint: itís not friendly). You claim to have a good relationship with UFC owners and casino moguls the Fertitta brothers, so maybe youíll use their help. I may be wrong, but I donít think you have any other friends in the industry, at least none that have deep pockets.
You also take a lot of flack for your public statement that you let your girlfriend, Jenna Jameson, handle your business affairs and contract negotiations, and some say this is to your detriment as, to put it nicely, sheís not known as a shrewd businesswoman. Could this be why you really donít have a lot to say here, because youíre out of your element? Youíre an excellent marketer (and Iím surprised you didnít push for your team to be Team Punishment Ė after your clothing line Ė as you did in The Ultimate Fighter 3), but can you hang in this world? Eventually, when the men start losing (or the teams get shuffled) people are going to start wondering why they should keep you around. Give them a reason.
By the way, Iím curious if Tito will take a lot of crap for missing this past week. I imagine Tito had to make an appearance at UFC 78. I say this because he turned down a main event rematch (of a crappy fight, I thought) to film this show. Thereís no way he was actually IN a fight, because these guys train like mad, especially in the last few weeks leading up to the fight. In other words, his contract mandates that he appear at ringside at events heís not fighting in. So, will he take crap for taking a task off in order to fulfill his contract? People on past seasons have gotten flack for attending religious services!
Piers: Boy, do a lot of people hate you. Personality-wise, I think youíre a huge jerk, but in business I donít care about that. You get the job done, youíre willing to do what is necessary no matter how ridiculous you look holding a stuffed killer rabbit, and no matter what Stephen and Trace say (whose votes were strictly emotional) you have been the unquestioned leader and high producer on this team.
You need to tone it down. Way down. Omarosa proved once that being the villain only gets you so far. Unless you can pull a Donato and bring your daughter into the mix, you wonít make it past the final four.
The mole joke with Vincent was funny, but you took it way too far. You created enemies where none were necessary by repeatedly rubbing it in the womenís faces in the war rooms. Revealing the information did its job Ė it completely flustered the women and threw them off their game. But after so much ribbing, you only served to galvanize them and have them resolve to kick your butts. In essence, this is what youíve been doing for five weeks. In real life, Iíd hire you in a second because you get the job done. In this game, it makes people gun for you.
Stephen: Iím going to give this one opinion and then drop it Ė there is absolutely no difference between picking up a note and reading it and saying ďHey, teammate, look at this note laying here!Ē Your hypocrisy is astounding and the fact that you have no clue how you look just makes it worse.
Now, you, like Piers, also need to dial it back a few notches. Someone who gets the job done when itís needed (Piers) is one thing. Someone who takes control where it is not needed or wanted, well, thatís you. You got supremely lucky in the Kodak challenge when your hyperactive act nearly cost your team the win (not to mention an expensive laptop). You keep this up, youíll be fired eventually, assuming you donít quit first (and I think this is just a tease for a reshuffle). No one as outspoken and in the forefront as you has ever won, or even made the finals. You have to know when to pull back, and I donít think you have that ability.
Lennox: Perhaps fittingly, youíre playing the role of the good soldier right now. You always make an impact (heh), everyone likes you because youíve got golden charisma just oozing out of you, and you do a good job.
The problem, of course, is leadership. The first time you are Project Manager will tell the tale of whether you are a true contender (seriously, Iím not doing the puns on purpose) or not. I just have this bad feeling that your first stint as PM will be hijacked by Stephen but youíll get the blame and be sent packing.
And speaking of blame, what kind of idiot is Trump for chastising Lennox for overexposing his celebrity? I mean, how do you overexpose someone with that charisma? How many commercials was Mr. Whipple in? Over 500, according to wikipedia. The Trix rabbit has been around since 1969. And what about the Verizon guy? Charlie Tuna? Madge the Manicurist? The ďTime to make the donutsĒ guy? There are dozens more examples, but the point is, if you have a successful spokesperson, you use them. Not to mention that whoever pointed it out was right Ė each client was new and had no idea that Lennox had been used before. Once again, what works in this game doesnít have to work in real life Ė as David Bloomberg has pointed out, this game encourages short-term thinking.
Besides, Iíd take a lot more stock in that advice if it didnít come from a man that didnít brand his own name on everything short of sex toys. At least, I hope heís stopped there.
Trace: I started to make a joke about how your name is appropriate, seeing as weíve only seen small traces of you, but thought that was too dumb even for me.
You are also a great marketer and a ďgo toĒ guy. Your contributions have been nothing short of brilliant and I commend you for them. Plus, youíre a damn good singer with a killer voice Ė you could sing the phone book and every woman in earshot would swoon. My advice to you is the same as to Lennox, that you need to stand out to win, and my fear about your first run as PM is the same. I also advise you to find a way to use that voice to your advantage, especially singing. If Lennox is the face of Hydra, Trace should ALWAYS be the voice.
Ranks among the worst names ever. Iím not sure if itís supposed to be a play on ďimpressĒ or ďempressĒ or what, but it says nothing while sounding weak. And would it be wrong of me to point out that the only challenge the women won regarded shoes?
Carol: Youíre a good soldier and, Vinnie mole issues aside, seemed to come through when it counted as PM. I never doubted that you have a good head on your shoulders, as everything Iíve ever heard about you has been positive. Besides, I doubt you could have survived this long in the modeling world, much less been such a pioneer, if you were a nitwit.
I actually didnít like the Croc-shaped box, the fact that I despise Crocs having nothing to do with it. I thought it was unwieldy and didnít focus enough on the issue at hand, which was the charity. It looked like a fancy holder for the Croc version of Imelda Marcos Ė like the giant Darth Vader head-shaped storage box I had for my Star Wars figures all those years ago.
OK, so maybe it wasnít that long ago.
Fine. Theyíre in my closet about five feet away. Happy?
In any case, Carol, from what Iíve seen you have an excellent chance to win this game. The best chance of any of the women, actually. Youíve made no enemies (no legitimate ones Ė Iím looking at you, Omarosa) and have done a fine job as both soldier and leader. For you to be fired will take a major-league meltdown on your part. Weíve seen how one bad decision can lead to a firing on this show, and I hope that doesnít happen to you.
If I had to bet, Iíd go with you and Lennox as the final two.
Nely: Youíre a joke. Remember Ivana from season two, who should have been fired in week two and was saved by Bradford stupidly giving up his immunity? Then she embarrassed herself and the next ten generations of her family by stripping off her skirt to sell a candy bar. Both Hall of Shame moments, as the links illustrate.
This is going to happen again. You should have been fired both in weeks two and three and were saved both times by the stupidity of your team. Youíve already embarrassed yourself numerous times by showing a cluelessness (hats? REALLY? HATS?) and naivetť (breathing exercises?) that no businessperson, much less an executive, should have. Not to mention that you seem constantly starstruck. I donít know if you have a boss to report to, but if I were your boss, Iíd be eliminating all proof that I ever knew you.
What have you done wrong? Letís see. In week two, you underutilized Nadia and then blamed her for your failure to deliver a strong concept and manage the project in a timely manner. You failed in your line of expertise! Miserably! You should have been fired in week two, but Nadia had no backbone to defend herself.
Then, at the beginning of episode three, you were sobbing uncontrollably, complaining about how hard the boardroom was. You built Telemundo more or less from the ground up, helped launch HBO Ole, and this boardroom brought you to tears? How is this possible? Itís like Joe Buck being nervous about describing his sonís little league game. Could it be, like Ivanaís ďoh God,Ē you realized that you should have been gone instead?
Later, you fawned all over Gene Simmons like a schoolgirl. Women seem to do this for some reason and Iíll never understand why, so Iíll cut you some slack on this one. You completely blew the meeting with the Kodak people, and Iím willing to bet that they blamed Geneís ignoring the business plan to you not being able to shut up. Again, youíve done this before, how could it be so difficult? I donít get it.
Basically, extending the Ivana comparison, the only way you didnít go home in week three was Gene falling on his sword (more on that later). Trump was practically BEGGING Gene to let him fire you (and I donít know why he just didnít do it, as heís done it before) and Gene let you off the hook Ė and the worst part is, you didnít even seem to figure that out.
In week four, you lost your team the task when your contacts did not come through in time with their money. I donít really blame you for this, but had the money come in, you would have won. Marilu should have thrown you under the bus but once again, you were saved because the focus was on another teammate, Jennie Ė a firing that could be justified, sure, but not over someone who screwed up royally three weeks in a row!
There is no advice I can give you short of pulling some miraculous project-saving idea out of your ass and making people forget the last few weeks, and frankly, I donít think you have that in you.
Marilu: To most people, youíre Elaine Nardo, but to me, Iíll always love you for being Lil Dangerously. ďOh, Johnny! I love shelf paper!Ē How many people could carry off that line convincingly?
Youíre doing well. You fall somewhere between Jennie and Omarosa in the cut-throat category, in that you know business but youíre not going to trample someone to get it done, although you might hurt a few feelings. You do business with your heart, which can be effective.
My advice to you is to watch your back. I donít think you have a chance to win this game with some of these personalities around, but that doesnít mean you canít go down swinging.
Omarosa: Youíre a useless bitch and you donít belong on this show except to make catty remarks and talk down to everyone. I look forward to another crying spree when youíre fired.
I will give you credit for the idea of the Croc-shaped bin, as I believe that was what won your team the challenge. But can I point out Ė recycled Crocs? Ewww!
Vincent: As I mentioned, the double-agent thing started as a joke but went way too far. Yes, it was Piersí idea, but you had no problem with it. It was your idea to join the women instead of simply spy. The flaw was that, halfway through, you decided you didnít like your role (or maybe you decided the women would win and figured it was a good chance to get rid of Piers) and changed sides.
The women found out, through the brilliant deduction of Piers rubbing it in their faces. The look of shock on Omarosaís face was a beautiful moment Iíll carry with me for a long time. I seriously canít believe this never occurred to any of them. Some of them didnít believe it when Piers told them! And they wonder why they lost four in a row?
In any case, Vinnie got mad when Piers revealed the plan. Why? Because it blew HIS plan to be a double-agent, not because it blew the plan to spy. They already had everything they needed from Vinnieís spying. But Vinnie wanted it both ways.
But the fatal blow was when Vinnie refused to return to Hydra, which made no sense to me. He had a plan of action and carried through on it, and should have just returned to normal. He could have used it against Piers and Stephen, who certainly wasnít opposed to the plan while he was laughing his butt off. By acting like a child and not wanting to rejoin the team, Vinnie doomed himself.
Really, this wasnít the first time. Vinnie wasnít much of a team player the entire time. He was a good soldier in doing what he was told, but complained about it more than anyone. He acted put out when nominated for PM. He just didnít seem like he wanted to be there, even when giving his ex-wife (and have there ever been a pair less alike?) the check for winning his challenge, which, ironically, Piers won for him.
He didnít play the game. Piers did. Piers is still there, and I still donít understand why the two didnít like each other.
Oh, and I would be remiss in not mentioning the hilarious Sopranos ending. It was obvious and cheesy, yes, but thereís a reason broad comedy like that works.
Jennie: Oh, Jennie. My Apprentice girlfriend. Youíre beautiful, sexy, intelligent, athletic, and a hard worker. And you couldnít cut it in the cutthroat business world, which made me love you all the more. In any case, itís refreshing to see a celebrity (and you are a celebrity, donít ever doubt that) with her head screwed on right and her priorities straight. For once, I agree with Trump Ė the fact that you donít belong in that world is a very good thing.
Gene: First, I get to take this chance to plug my good friend and fellow RNO-writer Dale Shermanís soon-to-be-updated book, Black Diamond. I especially like it because I know Gene hates KISS projects that he doesnít have a piece of.
I argued vehemently against the inclusion of Gene into the HOS (although he deserves to be in MANY Halls of Shame for MANY reasons) for the simple fact thatÖ God help meÖ I agreed with him.
His was the superior concept and letís not even go into the design. His flaw was that he didnít have twenty thousand Kinkoís-copied signs shouting ďINK!!Ē all over his trailer. He came up with a great design, showcased both the product and the company at the same time, and had a winning slogan. Iím sorry, but if Iím an executive rolling out a new product that I want to be done a certain way, and someone comes along and gives me a GOLDEN idea thatís ten times better than what I had, Iím changing my approach.
Believe you me, Iím no bigger fan of Gene Simmons the marketer (Remember Tongue Magazine, anyone? Anyone?), but I can admit when heís right, and he was right.
Now, I think itís pretty obvious by now that Gene wasnít stupid in the boardroom, he quit. I think everyone except Trump and that moron who yells about stock tips have figured that out. But you may not know why. Gene, as a businessman, believes that his way is the best way and WILL NOT entertain any other views. Ironically, he was on the wrong side of that same philosophy.
Anyway, when Gene was told that his version of events was wrong, he disagreed. In effect, he said, ďIf my product is considered losing by your rules, then I donít want to win.Ē Once he was told his idea wasnít good enough, he might as well have hit the elevator because he was on the way downstairs.
Iím not sure if I respect him for that or think heís a self-absorbed loon. But since I think the latter anyway, Iíll just say that Gene made the right choice for Gene and move on.
Nadia: You were so forgettable I had to check the site to see who was second fired. I think that about says it all.
Tiffany: Your reason for being fired was absolute BS. How many of the women called their famous friends? I think Trump glommed onto that so he could talk about his ďgood friend Yuuuuuh HefnerĒ about seventy times.
Mike DeGeorge is a lead Accounting peon in St. Louis. He welcomes your feedback at email@example.com.
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