Oh my God, it’s back again.
"The Celebrity Apprentice" is the best TV demonstration of the trappings of ego and fame. It’s an irresistible show. Would you watch for the terrified look on La Toya Jackson’s face when she realizes she has to cross the street like a pleb? Or the beloved Joan Rivers (R.I.P.) schtick it up while cleaning a dirty hotel room? Of course you would.
And now, Gilbert Gottfried is "supervising balloons" while his motley crew (that includes "Grease" star Lorenzo Lamas) is inside serving mini chicken pot pies to passers-by and representatives for Bill O’Reilly. It’s a series of premises so absurd, it always works.
Remember, these are "celebrities," like "award-winning journalist Geraldo Rivera" (who once outed the position of American troops during the Iraq war), "television icon and shark-slayer, Ian Ziering" (brand integration for NBC Universal’s SyFy production, "Sharknado") and "America’s sweetheart" and fellow "television icon, Keshia Knight-Pulliam."
Poor Keshia. She inadvertently volunteered to be the Project Manager for the task – a fundraiser-slash-pie-sale with now-defunct restaurant Pie Face – with no (real) big donors in her corner, save for a (reportedly) small cheque from Tyler Perry. Her team (Infinity) was demolished by the men’s squad (Vortex), raising only $93,862 (including a $25,000 "Cake Boss" pie bonus for their Blueberry-Pear and Enchilada Pies) to their $185,322 (for their low-calorie Chicken Pot Pies and Ice Box Chocolate Pies, respectively). The "Cosby Show" star’s ouster was inevitable, marking the second time in a row that she’s been a first boot from a celebrity reality competition. Yes, she was the first one eliminated on the 2013 diving show "Splash," where she was outlasted by peers like Louie Anderson.
But here’s where things get (really) uncomfortable. Shot last spring, Rudy Huxtable was (gulp) chastised on multiple occasions for not calling up her TV dad, Bill Cosby, for a financial donation. Yet it was Keshia herself who cued up the cringe.
"From the days on 'The Cosby Show' and having that great example from Mr. Cosby, the importance of philanthropy and giving back to others has been a part of my life for forever," said Keshia, early on in the episode. A great creed, but she, like Vulture writes, “awkwardly declined” to call Cosby to be a donor.
Then came “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kenya Moore, with this gem:
"So let's talk about the elephant in the room ... the first person she should be calling is Bill Cosby, because I know he has deep pockets!"
Yes. Deep pockets.
Of course, Cosby’s father figure reputation is now (forever?) tarnished by several allegations of rape and sexual abuse from over a dozen women. But, they didn't know the extent of this sex scandal when the show started filming in March. Instead, Cosby was a benevolent community leader and comedian. Or something.
And the wincing from Cosby praise didn't end there. In the boardroom, Piers Morgan and Donald and Ivanka Trump continue to belittle Keshia for her decision to not reach out to him, to which she tearfully confessed, "For me to pick up the phone, having not talked to you for five years, except for when we run into each other for a Cosby event -- I feel that's not my place to do."
So, ta-ta to Keshia, who made quite an exit after "not emphasizing the money." Now in its 14th season, we know "Apprentice" contestants pre-shoot their exits, and their backseat interviews capture their elimination reaction. But Keshia's strut in that tan cape? Let’s just say it was a jarring jump-cut.
The season premiere itself? Much less jarring, save for the Cosby cringe. Did you know Kevin Jonas had 4.3 million Twitter followers last spring, which is more than double the entirety of Team Infinity’s count? Now you know. As the Vortex Project Manager, Geraldo Rivera said himself, "When in doubt, Facebook. When in doubt, Instagram. When in doubt, get the word out." There it is. He also dropped the phrase, "You know, being a war correspondent" before going into a diatribe about pies and business. His ego is so huge it threatened to bubble and explode my TV screen.
Meanwhile, Ian Ziering (which is always EYE-an, not EE-an) is in the self-awareness business ... while dressed in pastel pink or cranberry suits. Totally normal. When suggesting team names, the "Sharknado" star suggested: "Tornado." When he was working on the pie task, he channelled his inner Steve Sanders.
"Oddly enough, working in the Pie Face was akin to working in the Peach Pit," said EYE-an. "I was almost ready to scream for Nat to bring me a Mega Burger."
It happened. I mean, I never thought a "Celebrity Apprentice" could be that self-indulgent unless it was Debbie Gibson begging to sing "Shake Your Love" at any opportunity. But here we are. And Ivanka is into it. Earlier in the episode, we learn the prim and proper daughter of The Donald is all about West Bev. All she wants is to pick Ian’s brain about Brandon, Kelly and Steve. She has a crush! As if!
The episode also hit a new level of meta when passers-by asked former NFLer Terrell Owens who the celebrities were. When he answered "Johnny Damon, Gilbert Gottfried and Kevin Jonas," they then asked him if he was Chris Brown. Amazing. Furthering that scale of true "celebrity," a Howard Stern look-a-like received more airtime than Joe Piscopo, and a Maria Menounos entrance always deserves a chorus of cheers.
Like any good season premiere, it also kick-started a bunch of storylines. Brandi Glanville likes to get "sticky," Kate Gosselin can't form a sentence, and Vivica A. Fox can get emotional, y’all. So much so, that The Donald yelled this:
Ah, "Get some Kleenex." A passionate plea from a gentle, corporate giant. Next up – two MORE hours of "Celebrity Apprentice." Can you handle the truth, or the social media mentions?
"Celebrity Apprentice" Over-Under Scale:
"At the end of the day"– Over/Under six mentions.
"Under the bus"– Over/Under five mentions.