Donald Trump's Ego is 'The Celebrity Apprentice's' Biggest Problem
by Joel Keller, posted Mar 15th 2010 7:29PM
One of the mantras that any fan of 'The Apprentice' has heard over the show's nine Donald Trump-filled seasons is that "You never know who Mr. Trump is going to fire."
It's the aspect of the show that makes it unique in the sea of reality contest shows on the air right now. There's no panel of judges conferring on who should be eliminated, no one getting the ax because they came in last. No, the outcome of each episode is purely up to Donald Trump.
And that's where the show runs into its biggest problem, especially now that celebrities are involved.
It goes without saying that Trump's got an ego that's bigger than the tower that bears his name. But he's made firing decisions in the last couple of 'Celebrity Apprentice' seasons that really made me think he was acting more like a TV producer than a shrewd businessman. And if last night's season premiere is any indication of what Trump is thinking this year, 'The Celebrity Apprentice' is going to be tough to watch.
Anyone who watched the show knew that Carol Leifer got shafted. She worked to her strength on the initial project, using her comedy club-honed skills to bring people into the diner where the women were working. And when Holly Robinson Peete asked her to man the counter, she put the flyers away and did what she was asked. And, for that, she got the ax from Trump.
By all accounts, Cyndi Lauper should have been fired. She was the leader of Team Tenacity for the first project, and she sure didn't act like one. Both Sharon Osbourne and Peete rolled right over her and ordered people around. She approved the fatal decision to charge more down-to-earth prices for the food, where the men on Team Rocksolid decided to go for the big spenders and charge $100 for a hamburger. And she couldn't get her crew to wrangle the growing crowd outside so the big money people they invited to contribute could get in.
But for some reason, Trump let Peete and the team somehow convince him that Leifer didn't do enough to earn another week. He must have known, either from reports back from his kids or the producers, that Carol was pulling her weight. I suspect that Trump didn't want to see the colorful and street smart Lauper disappear from the show so soon. Trump probably saw a shouting match between Lauper and Osbourne in the show's future when he made the decision.
Here's the problem, though: the more Trump lets his ego get in the way and he fires people for odd reasons, the less watchable the show is going to be. Viewers aren't going to want to follow a show if the best people are eliminated because they're not interesting enough.
There was already grumbling amongst viewers last year that Trump angled the finale to be a Joan Rivers vs. Annie Duke showdown, even though Rivers didn't quite deserve the chance to advance. That was after firing Klohe Kardashian out of the blue for DUIs he should have already known about, considering her jail time was well-publicized by then.
Maybe because the show's now a celebrity side show, Trump feels he can fire anyone for any reason. But there still needs to be business logic behind his decisions. If he's just going to fire people for being boring, then why bother watching anything but the finale?