Why ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ Is Better Off Without Donald Trump
That’s the phrase Donald Trump has been spouting at contestants for 11 years as the host of NBC’s The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice. Today, he was on the receiving end of those very words as the Peacock network announced it will cut all ties with the billionaire real estate mogul after offensive comments he made about Mexican immigrants while stumping for his 2016 presidential campaign.
This is great news for The Celebrity Apprentice, which is one of the most consistently entertaining reality programs on television—and not because of its blowhard host. Despite dropping Trump’s executive producer credit, NBC plans to continue licensing the show from Mark Burnett’s United Artists Media Group. Production hasn’t started on Season 8, so now is the perfect time to revitalize the franchise.
Finally Focus on the Real Stars
Let’s be honest, it’s been a long time since Donald Trump was the “star” of The Celebrity Apprentice. Over the past seven seasons, producers have done an outstanding job of collecting talent from a wide variety of entertainment outlets—country stars, pro athletes, supermodels, news personalities—and thrown them together to test their business acumen. The show’s watercooler moments don’t come from Trump, but rather the inevitable friction that occurs when giant egos are forced to work together in a small space with a ticking clock. Look at these heavyweight battles from the last few seasons: Real Housewife Nene Leakes vs. Star Jones, Meat Loaf vs. Gary Busey, the late Joan Rivers vs. poker player Annie Duke, and of course the first Celebrity Apprentice feud, Piers Morgan vs. Omarosa. There was also a case of cell phone thievery last season between Real Housewife Kenya Moore and Vivica A. Fox. You can’t script that kind of absurd drama. By getting rid of Trump, the show can devote more time to behind the scenes shenanigans before heading into the stretched-out boardroom segment. Which leads us to…
Trim the Boardroom Fat
NBC’s two-hour “super-sized” Celebrity Apprentice episodes can be a bit of a slog, even for the die-hard fan. And week after week, the part that always drags is the boardroom. “Nobody wants to watch an hour and 20 minutes of a task,” Trump told the Television Critics Association in January 2015. “The thing that does best, as you all know, is the boardroom. That’s what people like the best.” Is it? Sure, some of the best fights happen in the boardroom; but more often than not, Trump already has an idea of who he wants to fire and crafts the conversation accordingly. Case in point from last season: Kevin Jonas vs. Geraldo Rivera. When their team lost a task, the surprisingly business savvy Kevin refused to point the blame at anybody other than Geraldo. But the Fox News personality was a big “get” and a valuable ally for Trump, who couldn’t tell one Jonas brother from another, so he spoke in circles trying to justify Kevin’s early departure. Is it fair? Not really, but this is (or was), Trump’s show, so he could do whatever he wanted. Which leads us to…
Eliminate Fawning Over Trump Products
Most episodes of The Celebrity Apprentice begin with the teams congregating in front of one of Trump’s pieces of New York real estate. Trump Tower, Trump Hotels, Wollman Rink—if Trump built it, they will be there discussing how amazing and essential it is to the spirit of New York. Challenges work in Trump’s business partners, such as Australian Gold suntan lotion and Farouk Systems hair products. Last season, Trump even forced the celebrities to fly to Florida to stage a two-hour long infomercial for his new Trump National Doral golf club. With the mogul out of the picture, the door is open for more innovative businesses to get some national television exposure at the hands of barely competent C-list celebrities.
Find a Fresh Face
A new host with a new point of view would completely reinvigorate the show. An easy option would be promoting one of Trump’s children, who have been frequent advisors on the show, to the big chair. Ivanka, who oversees her own jewelry and accessories line, would be the natural choice; she’s already proved she can be a force to reckon with in the boardroom. But if NBC wants to completely banish the family name, they should turn their attention to executive producer Mark Burnett’s other business series, Shark Tank, and take a chance on one of the sharks, such as eccentric Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Or why not Burnett himself? When The Apprentice premiered in 2004, he was an up and coming producer in charge of Survivor and looking for his next big hit. Eleven years later, he’s one of the most recognizable faces and approachable figures in the industry thanks to the success of Survivor, The Voice, The Bible and countless other projects. Imagine a series where Burnett challenges aspiring filmmakers with reality television inspired tasks in exotic locales. It could be the trump card needed to save this franchise.