‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ premiere: one donation to rule them all

The man with deep pockets.

It’s dramatic, it’s for charity, and it’s also the most ridiculously over-the-top spectacle of celebrity ego on television. “The Celebrity Apprentice” is back, and the show yet again succeeded in being the rare TV event where two hours goes by in the blink of an eye.

The cast this season was one of the best yet — from Arsenio Hall to Lisa Lampanelli, there are actually a number of names this time around that we’ve actually heard of rather than just two or three “stars” sprinkled in among people we may have known if we were in the right place at the right time.. The show also had quite a surprise from the get-go, as driver Michael Andretti replaced his son Marco at the last-minute following the passing of Dan Wheldon.

Before we look at the individual highlights from some of the stars, here’s the set-up for this week’s task — just like everyone other “Celebrity Apprentice” season pretty much ever, the premise was to raise as much money as possible courtesy of selling a food product. In this case, it was sandwiches — and the men’s team Unanimous selected “American Chopper” head Paul Teutul as their Project Manager. Meanwhile, the ladies’ team Forte went with Patricia Velasquez — a daring pick since she is possibly one of the least-recognizable members of her team.

Now, the stars who shined the brightest:

Lisa Lampanelli – Lisa is going to be a major star this season. She’s hilarious, but what people may overlook in the midst of that is just how tough she is. She will defend herself to the bitter end, and was a focal point of the challenge without really being the center of attention.

Penn Jillette – On a different level, Penn started out this episode by doing whatever he needed to do — and in this case, he spent the entirety of the challenge shouting outside like a crazy person. We get the sense from Penn that he will be willing to throw on a duck suit and wander the street for cash — and you need that.

Debbie Gibson – The more that Debbie mentions her musical abilities, the more we are going to start using them in quotes. Basically, Debbie used her “musical abilities” this week to sell sandwiches, to work with Wyclef Jean, and to campaign for herself in the boardroom. She was memorable here, but for the wrong reasons in that she seemed to be a bit too arrogant.

George Takei – George was criticized by Paul for being a bit under-the-radar, but we found him to be an absolute gem in this episode. The thing about George is that he can read the phone book and make it sound interesting, and to hear him gush all over Lou Ferrigno’s body with his deep baritone was entertainment goal. We also learned a bit about his story growing up — and some of it we didn’t even know.

Clay Aiken – Who knew that Clay was such a salesman? He played hardball with a good many donors selling sandwiches at the register, but it actually worked.

As for the course of the challenge, it really just came down to one thing this week — a single individual who did not show up on camera and ended up handing Paul more than $300,000. This single donation was more than the entire ladies’ team combined, and it pretty much nullified just about everything else we saw during the episode.

The moment this happened, the back-stabbing began — though it actually was more akin to poking each other with a pipe cleaner than battling with a dagger. The biggest failures Patricia could point out on her team were Cheryl Tiegs for being a bit slow to act, and Victoria Gotti for showing up an hour late due to an eye problem. (Strangely, Trump did not fire Tia Carrere simply for saying that she wouldn’t be upset if she was brought back into the boardroom.)

Ultimately, Tiegs ended up being the person going home for saying something just about crazy from a competitive point of view — that she really didn’t feel the competition was right for her. Then again, this was also rather refreshing since it was honest. If you’re not into screaming at people or wearing silly costumes, why are you here? The Donald did the right thing in letting her go, and thus allowing us to witness more insanity from some of the contestants moving forward.

Photo: NBC

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