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Is Celebrity Apprentice really good business?

February 10, 2015

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Leeza Gibbons is a finalist on this season's Celebrity Apprentice.

The finale of this seventh season of Celebrity Apprentice is next week. It pits TV vets Leeza Gibbons and Geraldo Rivera against each other in a fight for the win and the $250,000 donation to their charity of choice.

But as with most decisions on the show, instead of being based on business factors, the winner will instead come down to Trump’s arbitrary whims. Will he pick the rule-oriented Leeza who has a killer attention to detail, or will he go for Geraldo since he’s flashier and can bring in bigger donors?

The series is ostensibly about business, or passing on Donald Trump’s business knowledge, but while the tasks are focused on advertising for brands, it is largely an excuse for for celebrities to gain a little publicity (for their sometimes flagging careers), in a way that doesn’t require them to be dancing.

Some people, like Joan Rivers and Piers Morgan, displayed some serious savvy fund-raising prowess in the process, but that’s often shuffled to the side in favor of the more drama-filled scenarios.

That was only evident during the airing of Monday’s “Top Feuds, Firings and Fails” episodes. Only a few moments tacked on at the end were devoted to the winners of this show and how much money they’d raised for their various charities.

It’s a far stretch from the original series, which focused on taking determined MBA grads (or the like) and giving them an opportunity to win a position within the Trump organization. That show involved elements of fund-raising, but was more of an even playing field without the fame factor. Unfortunately, viewers tired of watching ordinary and somewhat competent people doing actual business related tasks.

The original Apprentice started out in the Top 10 for its debut year in 2004, but quickly slipped down in the ratings as people lost interest in the “You’re fired” game. Its final season (which aired after three installments of the celebrity version) was in 32nd place.

This is all despite Donald Trump’s constant assertions that it is the number one show on television. While the ratings are doing better than they have in years, they don’t even make it the number one show on Monday nights. And the show has been on the verge of cancellation multiple times.

But while the celebrity version of the show doesn’t actually offer up much in the way of business knowledge (most of the episodes seemed focused on the project managers ability to babysit temperamental teammates), it has reinvigorated the careers of some of cast members.

The late, great Rivers, who won Season 2 and was featured posthumously in an advisory capacity this season, acknowledged the impact of the show on her career in her documentary Piece of Work. And then there is Omarosa, who owes the entirety of her fame and career to the Apprentice franchise. She behaved so obnoxiously on the first season of The Apprentice, that she became simply known by her mononym. She then leveraged that into more work, and two additional appearances on the celebrity edition of the show.

One might argue that the person who has fared the best on this show is Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

She stepped in during Season 6 as a permanent advisor on the show. While its hard to directly attribute profits for her clothing and lifestyle lines directly to the show, the show has gone out of its way to showcase her “brand”, even this season with an entire task devoted to promoting her shoe line. Additionally, the entrepreneurial young woman does herself a lot of favors coming off cool and collected, but also dryly funny, which makes her more approachable to the everyday woman she’s marketing to.

So who will be the big winner during next Monday’s finale?

As with many of Trump’s choices on this show, a key factor will come down to the fact that to date Geraldo has been able to bring in more money. In Trump’s world, it pays to be popular and have rich friends.

But the real winner of this season might be Kevin Jonas. While the young pop star was eliminated early on, he was selected to return for the finale to assist Leeza because of his likability factor. He even landed himself a weekly blog on‘s official site talking about the show as the “voice of reason”.  He comes across knowledgable and camera-ready, so this could only help boost his post-Jonas Brothers career.

Is this business, or entertainment? We say entertainment. While the tasks may be finding ways to promote various products, too many of the challenges rely on a high level of fame in order to be well-executed.


Sales of Ivanka Trump Clothing Line 
Celebrity Apprentice Strong Ratings for 2015 Season
Joan River’s Final TV Appearance on Celebrity Apprentice 

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