CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
TV Review: Donald Trump Finds Ridiculous Ways to Entertain With ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’
CHICAGO – Who would volunteer to go on national television and be ridiculed and demeaned by not only an egotistical blowhard like Donald Trump but his two children (who, for the record, I like significantly more than dear old dad)? I understand the desire to get back in the public spotlight but at so high a cost?
TV Rating: 3.5/5.0
Only the people desperate for another shot at fame (and a few level-headed folks who honestly thought they could do something for their charity) or a first shot at becoming a household name would jump into this bizarre set-up in which people are asked to do things they have no experience doing (like make sandwiches) and then judged by a man who also has never done the same task. The most bizarre thing about “The Celebrity Apprentice” is the expectation that being a celebrity prepares you for whatever bizarre business task that Mr. Trump can devise. Then again, perhaps Trump knows that most of his “celebrities” will fail. You think?
The Celebrity Apprentice
Photo credit: NBC
That introduction might lead one to believe that I don’t like “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Oh, I do. It’s goofy television at its goofiest. Much like his Presidential aspirations, I can’t tell how seriously Donald Trump takes himself. Does he honestly think that these people are, as he constantly says, some of the most famous and intelligent people in the world? Does he think Adam Carolla is an “internet pioneer”? Does he think Lisa Lampanelli is one of the funniest people in the world? Does he think Cheryl Tiegs is as smart he claims to think? Or is this all one big show? I’m not even sure that he’s not a business version of Andy Kaufman. He can’t be totally for real. Last season, he referred to himself as a ringmaster and his show as the circus. This may be his greatest three-ring yet.
The Celebrity Apprentice
Photo credit: NBC
Once again, the teams of “celebrities” are divided into men and women who are given two tasks — name your team and pick a project manager. Careful readers will notice that I’ve put “celebrities” in quotes. The first two project managers are Patricia Velasquez and Paul Teutel, Sr. Yes, if you instantly know who those two people are without a Google search, you get a gold star. How about Dayana Mendoza or Aubrey O’Day? (Miss Universe and former member of Danity Kane who refers to herself as “heavily charming.”) Of course, as usual, there are some recognizable faces but they are mostly of the past-their-prime variety like Arsenio Hall, Debbie Gibson, and Dee Snider.
There are also a few comedians looking for a break into a different audience like Carolla, Lampanelli, and Penn Jillette. And it wouldn’t be “Celebrity Apprentice” without a reality star. It’s truly sad when the female team realizes that “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Terese Giudice is the most recognizable face on their squad. Clay Aiken, Lou Ferrigno, George Takei, Michael Andretti, Tia Carrere, and Victoria Gotti round out this year’s line-up.
In the first episode, the two teams begin with a sandwich shop challenge, in which they have to design sandwiches that they try to sell for $100 apiece (or more) for charity. Velasquez looks like she could be the Marlee Matlin of this season — the person who seems a bit too smart and well-organized for the show. Mendoza, Gillette, and even Lampanelli also prove to have solid heads on their shoulders (and any Howard Stern fan knows that George Takei is no idiot). But the dim bulbs outweigh the bright ones and it’s not long before people are making stupid decisions and just acting goofy. (And they go for a record number of mob jokes in the first episode in relation to Ms. Gotti but I’m not complaining. No, not me. Never.)
But that’s what we’re here for, right? We’re here for recognizable faces making decisions that make us laugh. There’s a hefty dose of manipulation this year as Trump and his producers play up the charity angle more every season, but, for the most part, “The Celebrity Apprentice” is about people who aren’t used to the real world being thrown into a heightened business situation and having their flaws exposed. There are some very entertaining personalities this season — Snider, Aiken, Hall, Takei, Lampanelli, Mendoza, Giudice. More than most years. Does it mean anything to be named “The Celebrity Apprentice”? Probably not. But it sure is fun to watch these people back-stab to get the title. Welcome back to the circus.