This Sunday, Celebrity Apprentice returns to thoroughly underwhelm a waiting nation. And this year, it’s an All-Stars edition. Although we’re not sure that somebody whose sole claim to fame is having been on Apprentice counts as a celebrity, let alone an All-Star. Still, we have a thoroughly dysfunctional relationship with this show, and we’ve got thoughts on this year’s batch of returning contestants. And yes, both Dennis Rodman and Gary Busey are returning. This has “disaster” written all over it.
Trace Adkins–Maybe it’s because he’s so tall and can barely hear some of the whining of the other contestants, but Trace came through his original season completely unscathed and unfazed by all of the insanity that surrounded him. He was laser focused on earning money for his charity, and he was damn good at it. We especially love how that, since the show, Trump has tried to take credit for his success in country music and, even though Trace knows that’s utterly ridiculous, he just kind of ignores it instead of protesting or thanking him.
Greatest Moment: It’s not even so much his moment, but near the end of the season, Piers Morgan reentered the Boardroom for the sole purpose of kissing Trace and walking right back out. Trace’s expression was a perfect mixture of annoyance and amusement.
Stephen Baldwin — Flea! Way back in Season One, we learned that was Stephen’s nickname, and it’s completely appropriate. He seemed nice (if a bit dumb) at first, but he just got more and more irritating as the season progressed. And while he wasn’t really good at anything, he took the show ridiculously seriously. Baldwin’s not necessarily an asset to the team, but he stays on task pretty well. If his team is smart, and there’s almost no chance that they will be, they’ll let him do his thing so they’ve got an easy scapegoat for a loss. We just hope he sticks around long enough for Alec to show up and hassle him. (Stephen pitching Kodak photo printers to his brother was one of the great joys of the first season.)
Greatest Moment: Overwhelmed by enthusiasm, Stephen stood on top of a conference room table to make his point. And then it flipped over. Nothing funnier than a man falling off a table. Unless it’s the table then falling on top of him.
Gary Busey — Oy. I’m so conflicted about this one. Busey was fascinatingly weird, at least at first. But then there’s the fact that he actually suffered massive head trauma in a motorcycle accident, and he might actually be impaired in some way. Which means that we’re laughing at somebody who really can’t help it. But then it started to seem like he’s doing a bit (check out the finale from Season Four – that’s a guy who knows exactly how he comes off and is deliberately playing to that). So it feels like either Busey, the show, or both are being exploitative. But the fact remains that he turns words into confusing acronyms, he can’t stay on task to save his life, and he tends to spice up any recap. And you know the producers will want to keep him around for the sideshow factor. We’re going to be stuck with him for most of the season, like it or not.
Greatest Moment: When the teams had to put together gift boxes of meat (this is a really weird show), not only did Busey not really understand how steak works, but his presentation was mostly a bizarre speech about a child flying a kite.
Marilu Henner–If memory serves, Marilu Henner was gone way too soon in this show’s first season, as her outer ditz belied a woman who is actually somewhat business savvy and has an “autobiographical” memory. She’s been successful in a number of arenas (TV, movies, stage, books) and might, in fact, be too intelligent for this show. We hope she gets a fairer shot than last time, even though she’s not a 25 year old model that Trump can be all gross and inappropriate over in the boardroom.
Greatest Moment: Marilu was mostly under the radar, but at her QVC presentation, she was more excited about ladders than any human being has ever been. In fact, Piers described her as having “unbelievable passion” for the ladder. You guys, this is a really weird show.
La Toya Jackson–No matter how many times Trump insists that La Toya is a great asset to her team, we will never believe him. She did as little as humanly possible and floated by in her first go round, until she was fired a few weeks too late and then re-hired the next episode when Jose Canseco had to bow out. She went on to become the first person fired twice in a season. We expect her to contribute nothing once again.
Greatest Moment: Besides talking her way back onto the show? Well, it turns out that she’s really good at explaining the selling points of RV’s. While she wasn’t terribly effective on most tasks, she really tapped into an unknown talent here.
Penn Jillette–The author of “Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!” can be quite the stubborn know-it-all but we will now readily admit that he was a pretty good player here. He dealt fairly well with all the nutty personalities, including Trump. And, he does have the self-starter kind of business acumen to excel at many of the goofy tasks on this show. The catch is that he can just as easily get hung up on something silly or piss off a teammate with his approach. The mix of teammates will probably be a big factor in how far he goes.
Greatest Moment: While a solid performer all around, Penn’s best moment came in his first episode. As the team worked out the best way to sell sandwiches, Penn casually mentioned that he had his fire-eating equipment with him. We love that he just travels with that stuff, and clearly decided that it’s appropriate to every task.
Lil Jon Before the fourth season began, I didn’t know much about Lil Jon beyond the phrase “Krunk Cup”. I’m still not clear what he’s famous for, but I really liked him during his season. He worked on a team with Busey, Meat Loaf, and Jose Canseco and somehow stayed clear of any sort of drama. Honestly, the guy was a solid performer without any serious personality deficiencies. Unfortunately, since this is All-Stars and they already know who the troublemakers are going to be, don’t expect Lil Jon to get much screen time. And it’s too bad John Rich won’t be back, because watching Jon and John dodge the crazies and keep winning tasks on their own was authentically enjoyable. They made a great team!
Greatest Moment: Unlike most of the All-Stars, Lil Jon didn’t distinguish himself by freaking out or causing an embarrassing loss. Mostly, he just did a good job and was funny in the talking head shots. But I think my favorite was when he started playing with a camera and turned a task into an episode of Cribs, especially because the usually laissez-faire editors played along and gave the whole segment an MTV edit.
Claudia Jordan When Season Two premiered, you probably didn’t know who Claudia Jordan was. (Briefcase model on Deal or No Deal). And with the announcement of the cast this season, your reaction was probably “Who’s Claudia Jordan? Was she on this show before?” She only made it four episodes into her season, and didn’t exactly distinguish herself. We have to assume that she’s coming back because she’s hot, has an open schedule, and is an NBC employee. (Or is she? Is Deal or No Deal still on? We never seem to see it, but people reference it a lot.) We have a feeling she’ll go home early again, and come finale time we’ll be trying to remember who she is.
Greatest Moment: Ummm…. Her Melissa Rivers impression was pretty funny, even if she could only say “Guys…”. That’s about it, really.
Omarosa–While we are sick and tired of this woman popping up on this show (and reality TV in general), she was humanized last year when her fiance, actor Michael Clarke Duncan, passed away suddenly. We’re not entirely sure of the timeline, but it doesn’t seem like this show was filmed that long after Duncan’s death. That will likely be a big factor in which Omarosa we see on screen. She’ll either be sweeter and more endearing than anyone could have ever anticipated or another level of nasty in her grief.
Greatest Moment: On one task, Project Manager Piers Morgan fired Omarosa from the team within the first five minutes. It didn’t work, and in the Boardroom, she implied that Piers is a terrible father and his children are embarrassed by him. OK, maybe it’s not a “greatest moment”. Or even a great moment. But it’s the best we’ve got.
Bret Michaels If you like bandanas, you’re in luck! The only winner to come back for another go-round, Bret almost died in between when the season was shot and the live finale. He’s one of those contestants who just grew on us. He was ridiculously irritating at first; getting butthurt by every real or imagined slight, invoking his diabetes every ten minutes, or his obsession with balloons. But despite all that, the guy’s got all kinds of charm – even enough to get past the fact that Rock of Love is a real thing that we’ve seen. By the end of the season, we were really rooting for the guy. Hopefully, we get later-season Bret and not early-season. Otherwise, it is going to be a long year…
Greatest Moment: You know, just the fact that he showed up for the live finale shortly after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage and then a “warning stroke” (which was apparently not connected) was pretty amazing. Nobody has ever put that much effort into sitting in Trump’s presence.
Lisa Rinna–Oh Lisa. We’ve seen all of you in Playboy, seen you shill for Depends on the red carpet and watched your lips deflate and inflate again almost at will. We’re really not interested in watching you on this show again, but since that’s not a choice, we’re hoping the least annoying version of you comes to play.
Greatest Moment: Since she was fired on the second task, she didn’t really leave us with much. He children’s book was insane, though.
Brande Roderick In the second season, Brande made it all the way to the interview episode, where she was eliminated for not being a dramatic basket case. Actually, Brande did quite well in her season, and even set the single-episode fundraising record. (Said record has been broken since then.) And even though the Rivers women eventually turned on her, Brande stayed out of the considerable drama on her team. If she’d been crazier, she probably would have made it to the final two, but instead she was just a solid contributor to her team.
Greatest Moment: Not a moment so much, but the fact that she, as a former Playmate of the Year, had to put up with Trump’s leers and inappropriate comments for an entire season and never once punched him in the face makes her a stronger person than we are.
Dennis Rodman Wow. This dude is a disaster. Which you sort of already knew, even if you’ve never seen the show. Rodman’s been famously nuts for a long, long time. During his tenure on the show, he lost his temper numerous times, he sat out part of a task because he claimed an eye infection, wandered off more than once, brought women who were apparently prostitutes to a task, and basically kidnapped a couple who were trying to celebrate their anniversary. And he stuck around for much longer than anybody could justify, all because Trump has a tremendous man boner for professional athletes. Frankly, Dennis could have set fire to the Tower and probably gotten off with a warning. Trump told him he had pretty eyes! Really! We really don’t want to have Rodman hanging around and ruining task after task, but we sort of want to see what he’s going to do next. He’s not going to win, but he’ll be around much longer than anybody can reasonably justify.
Greatest Moment: Early on in Season Two, he missed part of a task and his explanation turned into a long story about how he and Tom Green met some Russian billionaires who had a dog (or maybe a cat) and they all spent the night together and that’s how Dennis ended up with pinkeye. It was the weirdest Boardroom ever, which is really saying something.
Dee Snider–Had it not been for that debilitating broken finger he incurred during a task last season, we think Dee could have gone the distance. He’s surprisingly adaptable to different situations and smarter than a lot of people realize. This guy is pretty enterprising, is what I’m saying. Like Penn, he doesn’t take a lot of crap, even from Trump. Which I love.
Greatest Moment: The man finished a task with a broken finger! And this was the gross kind of broken, where it sticks out at an angle that makes you kind of sick to look at it. But he just taped it up, put on a dress, and played a princess for a performance at Medieval Times.
Who do you think is going to win? Let us know in the comments!