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Celebrity Apprentice recap: “Australian Gold”

Gary Busey in Celebrity Apprentice, Australian Gold
In the two weeks since I first ventured into the world of Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump has firmly established himself as the Most Annoying Man In America (Non-Elected Official Division). And yet, returning to the boardroom this week, I found it astonishingly easy to compartmentalize away my distaste for the asinine politics and birther hokum he’s been spouting in non-reality-based-contexts. (Hey, it doesn’t get much more non-reality-based than Fox News.)

Maybe that’s because Trump isn’t really a political contender, any more than he’s really a real estate magnate. He’s a professional celebrity, an entertainer who wears various public guises to inflate his profile. Unlike true demagogues, he doesn’t set the zeitgeist, he follows it. People like Limbaugh and Palin are like the pharmaceutical companies, creating the blockbuster ideas; Trump is like the generics manufacturer who makes a low-risk killing repackaging a proven winner.

So my conscience is relatively at ease as I load up Hulu and give NBC another monetizable click on the Celebrity Apprentice page (I say “relatively” at ease because, well, I’m still frigging watching Celebrity Apprentice). I learned two important things from the recap of last week’s episode, in which the teams sold art for charity: 1) Everyone on the men’s team is fed up with Gary Busey, and 2) Gary Busey is manna from ratings heaven. The men all wanted him gone, but Trump instead ousted Richard Hatch, because he sold the least art and not because he sells less ad space for NBC than Busey, definitely not, and how could you even think such a thing?

Both teams now have five members, somehow including La Toya Jackson, who insists she’s “not going away,” assuming of course she stays away from any drains large enough for her to accidentally slip into. Busey is peeved, but his teammates are even more so. Mark McGrath says, “The novelty is gone for Gary Busey. This is Celebrity Apprentice!” in what is either a masterstroke of editing or the least self-aware juxtaposition of sentences in the history of language.

Task delivery reveals that “Australian Gold” is the name of a suntan lotion for which the teams must design  a street marketing promotion, dashing my hopes that our intrepid celebrities would be treasure-hunting in the Outback. La Toya forces her way into the Project Manager role for ASAP; Trump says she’s a good fit for a skin care product despite having long ago shed any traces of natural skin. For Backbone, it’ll be Mark McGrath, and my own challenge to avoid making any “Fly” jokes in this piece starts now.

The men quickly decide on a pirate-themed campaign, with gold-painted models representing the…oh hell, there’s no way I’m making that joke, though I’m 50% certain somebody in the episode will. The women’s brainstorming is somewhat less successful. La Toya’s blank expression as the ideas are tossed out suggests less an inability to comprehend the ideas than an inability to comprehend language altogether.

The Australian Gold execs visit each team to impart some branding wisdom. They stress the product’s iconic character, a surfboarding koala wearing sunglasses who is “the coolest one anywhere he goes,” and I can’t help but feel I’ve seen this someplace before.

In the midst of the exec’s pitch, Gary interjects that “it gives you a sexual feeling,” which makes me two-for-two in Celebrity Apprentice episodes that have alluded to Gary Busey’s genitals. Of greater concern is the execs’ lukewarm response to the pirate suggestion, which only John Rich seemed to pick up on. Mark and Meat Loaf seize on the exec’s use of the phrase “treasuring life’s moments” to convince themselves that pirate treasure is a perfect fit.

The leadership on Team ASAP is equally adept. La Toya sees some beach-themed Australian Gold ads on YouTube, which inspires the dazzlingly creative vision of doing a beach-themed ad. Luckily, putting together an eye-catching campaign for suntan lotion is a cinch when your team includes Playboy Playmate of the Year Hope Dworaczyk to… handle the accounting.

Speaking of money problems, Star Jones adopts her best third-grade-teacher tone of voice to patiently and repeatedly explain that La Toya’s plan costs $7,900, and their budget is $3,500, and thirty-five hundred is a smaller number than seventy-nine hundred. La Toya takes this to mean that her entire team is plotting against her.

Gary and Lil Jon hit a costume shop to pick up some props. While waiting to load them up, Gary serenades Lil Jon with an impromptu sea shanty that apparently has the latter questioning every life choice he’s made to have wound up in such a situation.

Back at the workshop, Ivanka drops in on the rest of Backbone. Mark says that when Ivanka walks in the room, “you stand at attention,” because Mark’s role on this show is to set up way-too-easy jokes. In presenting their concept, Mark, John, and Meat Loaf provide a sample of what I have to imagine is the first ever pirate chant written by three guys who have sold something like twenty million combined records.

La Toya, concerned by Ivanka’s critique that the beach theme is unoriginal, decides ASAP’s campaign needs a little something extra to stand out. The solution: 125 bags of sand. Not sure how she arrived at that exact figure, but given her proven razor-sharp grasp of arithmetic, some precise calculations had to be at work. Oh, and there should also be a winter theme thrown in too for some reason.

The end result of these brainstorms is a life-sized diorama. Alien-looking, gold-clad beachcombers play volleyball a few feet away from some fake snow, while NeNe frolics about in a koala costume. If a 1950s vision-of-tomorrow movie and an early-1960s teenagers-on-the-beach movie had a baby, and that baby befriended a giant koala from a late-1960s head-tripping movie, this is pretty much what you’d get.

Meanwhile, Team Backbone has assembled a full Jolly Roger, complete with buxom wenches, a little person sporting a hook hand, and a frighteningly in-character Meat Loaf hamming it up to anyone who comes within fifty feet. We also get to hear the men bellow their “Gold! Gold! Australian Gold!” chant roughly 75 times, in what might be the most irritating side effect yet of the need for this show to fill up two goddamn hours of NBC’s prime time schedule.

The boardroom starts off predictably, with NeNe and Marlee leading the criticism of La Toya, despite Trump’s belief that she’s done “very,very well” so far. Thanks to his media blitz, this is only the second-least defensible assertion The Donald has made on television this week. Then he wonders why ASAP ignored the opportunity to promote their product with a swimsuit-clad Playmate of the Year, a question the suits at NBC were probably asking in much louder and saltier language when they saw the first cut of this episode.

Attention shifts to the men’s team, and I realize that of its five remaining members, all are recording artists except for Busey. Record companies of America: Rectify this fact immediately. Busey Croons The Hits will outsell Thriller and The White Album combined. When Trump asks Mark about the creativity of his teammates, Mark sings the praises of each one before politely adding that Gary has “nuggets in the orbit,” and just like that we have the name for Gary’s second album.

Team ASAP is announced as the winner, but the mood is less than celebratory back in the suite. NeNe shows off her reality show chops by berating La Toya pretty viciously. La Toya mostly keeps her cool, and in a talking head describers her attacker as “all mouth and heighth.” That’s not a typo, that’s actually the word she uses. She has a point; NeNe is awfully tallth.

Back in the boardroom, the men set their sights on Gary. The Australian Gold execs didn’t like his interaction, and Meat Loaf and John especially hone in on that. But the execs also didn’t like the concept, and Mark stated even before the results were announced that he would take full responsibility if the concept did his team in. Mark elects to take only Gary into the final boardroom.

Will Backbone lose the stronger player who failed on this task, or the perennial weak link and thorn in their side? The suspense is enormous! Until it’s completely punctured, during the ensuing Hulu ad break, by a promo for next week’s episode in which Gary is still around. Well done, Hulu.

So let’s go straight to the anti-climax! With the support of the Trumpettes, Mark looks for a way to thread the needle between his sense of accountability and his desire not to lose an ostensibly talent-based competition to Gary Freaking Busey. But, well, let’s face it: people aren’t tuning in to this show every week to see the former frontman of Sugar Ray market consumer goods.

That promo for next week ponders: “Could this be Gary’s last stand?” Somehow I doubt it, but if so, I hear NBC is looking for someone to replace Steve Carell onThe Office.

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Categories: Humor, TV
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  1. September 2, 2012 at 11:07 am

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