Here’s a word association game nobody would win. Donald Trump, Manhattan, Gary Busey and Celebrity Apprentice. What comes next? Last night, try “camping.”
Camping World, an RV retailer and supplier, decided to work with “Celebrity Apprentice” last night. No, NBC did not send the “Celebrity Apprentice” cast into the woods in an RV, though that would have been deeply amusing. (Busey trying to start a fire! Meat Loaf cooking marshmallows! John Rich doing a campfire sing a long!)
Instead, Camping World camped itself in Manhattan to promote itself for two hours. It brought four RVs into New York City where the teams had to create “experiences” and a “branding presence.” And since it doesn’t have a store anywhere near New York City (and why should it?), it to create a fake retail site so the teams could buy supplies for its experience.
And it’s obvious that very few of these actors, athletes, models and singers have ever camped, much less spent time in RVs. “I’m black. I ain’t never even slept outside,” said NeNe Leakes in her usual blunt (if not grammatical) style.
The men’s team Backbone decided to give the project manager title to Gary Busey because they felt he was unfocused and wanted him to prove himself. The women’s team ASAP opted for supermodel Niki Taylor.
Neither team came up with terribly creative ideas or slam-dunk themes. The producers have fun with Taylor’s “Camping in the 21st Century” concept Taylor kept saying 20th century. In fact, she has fellow model Hope Dworaczyk go to Google to confirm that yes, we are in the 21st century. And the editors catch Taylor still saying 20th century after that. (Haha! She’s a model! Get it?)
Both teams seemed a bit frayed and lost at points. While Meat Loaf, Richard Hatch and John Rich worked on branding and messaging, the other four – Mark McGrath, Lil Jon, Jose Canseco and Busey – did very little. A neurotic McGrath and annoyed Lil Jon fretted a lot about not doing anything while the other two sat on lawn chairs and relaxed. When Ivanka Trump stopped by to check in, Canseco seemed virtually comatose and didn”t even bother to stand up to greet her. (His excuse later: he was on a break, then claimed more strength and stamina than anybody else. Uh huh.)
Later, McGrath took video of Canseco and Busey throwing a baseball. He was so convinced they were going to lose that he figured he could use that in the boardroom later. (He didn’t need to.) Fortunately, when Rich, Meat Loaf and Hatch came back, they make the place look pretty good in the end.
Rich. who clearly worked his tuckus off, also came up with a simple, catchy country theme song for Camping World, which impressed the Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis.
The women more or less got along, though Star Jones opined about the lack of a vision. In Taylor’s mind, it was a “camping experience.” What more theme did you need?
During the actual challenge, the men’s exterior site looked sharper thanks to the greenery and big “Camping World” banners. Their presentation was also more energetic with Busey coming alive, putting on a frenetic show for curiosity seekers and the CEO. The women’s interiors were much better thanks to their decorating prowess and the low-key but sweet LaToya Jackson surprisingly gave an adept tour of her RV. The Camping World CEO later said she did a better job than some of his own sales staff.
But despite the men’s early ennui, they won. It was back to the women to fight it out again. Except Niki didn’t fight. She grabbed the sword and landed right on it, saying all the women worked out great (despite a silly spat with Dionne Warwick over where Hope was where Hope felt Dionne wasn’t talking to her in a respectful tone.)
So Trump just fired Taylor and she was out lickety split.
- Here are some other notable moments and observations from the night:
- The men’s team talked about demographics and camping. When Rich tried out his theme song, Canseco rejected it, saying it would turn off the non-country crowd (”too hick-ish”). Then Hatch helpfully added that the country crowd is “less educated” and “backward.” Rich took offense. “If anyone in this van wants to step up on that subject, I’m will be more than happy to square off with anybody,” he warned. “Please be careful how you bring up my audience.” Hatch backed off quickly.
- NeNe Leakes’ first camera-ready confrontation with Star Jones was brief. After the second challenge, moments after Star Jones and Warwick returned from the boardroom, NeNe gave Jones some advice, prefacing it by saying she keeps it “100,” as in “100% real:” “Stop trying to be the damn project manager!”
Jones said: “I promise you I will not step into that role… trust me!” NeNe, to the cameras but not to Jones, said she didn’t believe that at all, saying she will take over because “that’s Star.”
True that. This lays the seeds for future confrontations.
- Atlanta’s Lil Jon also got into a conflict. Busey kept cutting off the rap singer. “Lil Jon turned out to be an antagonist for me,” Busey observed later. “But it’s his issue, not mine.” Lil Jon: “I wasn’t feeling him after a certain amount of time… definitely not a good project manager.” Even after they won, they kept right on arguing. Busey felt like there was an “alliance” against him, including Hatch, Meat Loaf, McGrath and Lil Jon. Busey has good reason to be paranoid.
- Warwick, at age 70, is clearly not the most energetic. (NeNe gives her a break: “I see Dionne does not do much but she is 70. When I’m 70, I won’t want to do much either.”) Marlee Matlin critiques her as someone who does what she is told but nothing more. Warwick, in the boardroom (at least what we saw), keeps her trap shut.
- The four celebrities likeliest to make it to the finals, based on the first three episodes are Meat Loaf, John Rich, Marlee Matlin and Star Jones. All have fire in their belly to win this. Canseco? Not so much. McGrath may be too neurotic. NeNe’s temper and relative lack of business experience could hurt her. Jackson is too sweet. Dworaczk is eye candy. Busey is a wild card and way too out there. Dionne is too passive-aggressive. Lil Jon is wild card and a bit hard to read at this stage in terms of his potential leadership abilities.
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By Rodney Ho, email@example.com, AJCRadioTV blog