Tuesday, January 10, 2017

NBC's "The (New Celebrity) Apprentice": first thoughts

Okay, I will admit that I enjoyed watching "The Apprentice." It got tired after a few seasons, but the "Celebrity" version of it actually re-invigorated the format. That shouldn't surprising, because the show was never about business acumen as much as it was about host Donald Trump's pompous, irrational "decisions."

With Trump having left the series (or been fired) for the presidential campaign, NBC decided to recast the host role. In an instance of art and life swapping roles (sort of), the reality TV host went into politics, and the action star turned California governor went into reality TV. Yes, the Governator Arnold Schwarzeneggar took over the Trump role.

I tend to get overly optimistic about TV shows, and I had high hopes for the Governator. After all, there's 30+ years of great catch-phrases ("Hasta la vista, baby"; "I'll be back"; oh heck, here's a mash up of a whole bunch of them). Naturally, his exit line for fired contestants was exactly what you'd expect: "You're terminated!" (For some reason, only the first one got "hasta la vista, baby" as well.)

And yet, as a whole, the first four episodes (two per Monday evening) have felt a bit dull and flat compared to the Trump version. Why is that?

One reason, I think, is that Schwarzeneggar is trying to make somewhat reasoned choices about whom to fire. He's laid down some guidelines/principles that he sort of follows - take risks, don't hide in the background, stand up for what you believe. If this were a real business, that's what you'd want. As far as entertainment goes, though, not so much. Trump's show wasn't entertaining despite his randomness; it was entertaining because of that randomness. That plus how he was so awesome and these awesome people who were almost as awesome as he was would be evaluating the projects.

Another reason lies in the casting. As with "Survivor," casting makes a big difference, but it's not something that the producers can necessarily determine in advance whether the contestants will gel in an entertaining way. Here, though, the teams seem unbalanced; the men have won 3 of the 4 challenges, and the one that they lost was the only one that seemed like it could have gone either way. Perhaps it's because the women have too many reality TV celebrities (two "real housewives" and Snooki from "Jersey Shore"). Unlike the other celebrities, who because famous as athletes, singers, actors, etc., the reality stars became famous for being famous, so they don't bring any other strong skills to the table. I mean, they might happen to have some skills, but that's not why they were selected for the show.

So: it's not a terrible show, but it's not the self-parody that it used to be, which is too bad.

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