Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Celebrity Apprentice Recaps: Episode Six: Dance Monkey Dance.

Want to see a group of fake people, at a fake party, on a fake beach, having fake fun, while pretending to care about a fake cocktail - all because a rich, old white man told them to? Dance, monkey, dance! Welcome back to the wonderfully twisted world of the Celebrity Apprentice!

Last week another jaded, defeated, and disgusted celebrity chose to remove herself from the competition before Donald’s pudgy digit could fire her. Who will become irreparably bored with the proceedings this week?

Join me after the jump to find out!

After Tia Carrere's disinterested exit last week, the women are a team divided! An uncrossable schism has formed between Team Cool Van and Team Shitty Van. Real housewife Theresa is pissed that she was referred to as “slow” in the boardroom. “I’m not slow,” she assures us. “In fact I’m... the opposite... of slow.” I think perhaps the word you’re slowly reaching for is “fast”.

It’s all academic anyway because (despite the welcome promise of a potential face scratching) the women somehow manage to pull it all together and somewhat get along. They seem to alternate between playing nice and tearing each other’s throats out. Unfortunately it’s the former this episode.

And that is part of the reason why this particular series is so uneven. It faces a real dilemma because if the contestants are competent then the show becomes dull (that’s foreshadowing), but if the contestants are clowns (i.e. Busey last season) then the show is incredibly entertaining but the premise of selecting an “apprentice” becomes a total farce. I criticised Adam Carolla’s firing, but it was definitely the most engaging episode of the season so far. This one? Not so much...

Drinks company Crystal Lite have taken the popular idea of a cocktail and removed all the alcohol/interest/fun/entertainment from it with their new line of mocktails. One of them is pomegranate flavoured. You know - for all you countless legions of sober pomegranate fans.

The teams must create a party - at 11am in a storefront - to promote their drink of choice. They will be judged on branding and general party atmosphere because, in the business world, a great deal hinges on your ability to party. Oh yes. I feel a big old pomegranate party coming on...

For the men’s team American Idol loser Clay Aiken will take the reins as Project Manager and try to spruik some peach. For the women’s team, irredeemable monster Aubrey O’Day will project manage, talk about herself a lot, and promote some accursed pomegranate.

This is probably as good as time as any to bring this up. Now, I realise that the celebrities have signed up for this - they’ve chosen to do this - they know what this is. But I feel so uncomfortable to see celebrities - especially smart celebrities that I respect, and to be fair there’s more than a few of them here - pimping products that they aren’t really that invested in, on Donald’s whim.

They shill this stuff with such enthusiasm but, because we can see behind the curtain, we painfully realise how arbitrarily forced it all is. They are there purely for fortune and glory - not the product. Seriously, Donald Trump could open the task by bringing out a pair of his old slippers, giving the teams one each, and saying, “You must throw an awesome promo party for my filthy old slippers. You’ll be judged on how enthusiastically cloying you are about my soiled footwear. Now do it!” And seconds later you’d be watching Arsenio Hall accosting strangers in the street, grinning cordially and proudly announcing, “Have you ever seen such fabulous expensive slippers? Imagine the history that surrounds them! Really breathe in that aroma!”

To summarise: Nobody really gives a shit about you. They just want to separate you from your money.

The men have a slight problem. None of them know how to party. They don’t throw parties, they don’t go to parties. Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider doesn’t even drink!

Desperate, Clay coins the dubious, “Life’s a Peach” and the guys decide to flex their business acumen by filling their room with sand and surfboards and singing Under the Boardwalk. That oughta sell - sorry, promote - some peach drink!

Their planning goes off without a hitch - even Lou manages to get the job done without tearing off his clothes or painting himself green. The only minor friction is from Clay who still claims, in his confessional interviews - that Penn is a superior know-it-all. (Stop being so smart, dammit! Let us all be blissfully dumb!) Clay relishes the opportunity to send Penn on a shopping expedition where he can’t tell the people shoveling party sand how wrong they are about everything.

I still like Clay, but I can’t support this idiocy. The major problem is that the behaviour he’s accusing Penn of is not being shown on camera! In fact Penn is very much behind the scenes in this episode, masking his colossal intellect and keeping a low profile. And without that evidence on screen, Clay just looks like a petty dummy who needs to stop harping on imagined sleights and get the hell on with it.

Conversely, these women know how to party. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of them were drunk right now.

Aubrey is a beautiful, talented genius/goddess and the biggest asset on the team (she’s indoctrinating me) so she comes up with a Garden of Eden theme where the forbidden fruit is the pomegranate and everybody is clothed. Although Theresa felt marginalised at the beginning of the episode, she’s actually in her element here and gets to work designing and ordering things. It’s now actress Patricia Valesquez’s rostered turn to be the object of Aubrey and Lampanelli’s scorn and as Patricia sits, sour-faced and confused, in front of her computer, Aubz and Lampz question her appropriateness as a graphic designer. They’re not too sure about Miss Universe Dayana either. In fact they’re just generally suspicious of Venezuela.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking is Debbie Gibson’s enthusiasm about writing and recording an original song to sell a pomegranate mocktail. And the thing that she sings in the recording booth sounds very different to the over-produced song that spurts out at the end. They’re going to put the song on CDs and hand it out to every party attendee so that they can go home and listen to an advertisement for pomegranates in their free time.

You have to credit the men’s faux enthusiasm for their product (remember the old slipper analogy?) but it’s kind of awkward that these reasonably well-known celebrities don’t appear to have more than thirty or so people at their party at any given time. Not only that, at least half of their guests are friends that they’ve called up and roped into attending (like the equally fake silicone bikini girls). Fake guests at a fake party on a fake beach. And everyone is pretending to be totally jazzed about fake peach drinks!

A desperate cavalcade of party games fills the time. There’s a soul train and then Arsenio literally bends backwards for Crystal Lite in the limbo context. I’m amazed at the marketing skills displayed here because watching a man doing the limbo has always made me thirsty for peach. It’s an almost Pavlovian response.

It all culminates with Clay leading a sing-song of Under the Boardwalk. If that doesn’t make you want to buy a peach drink then god help you.

The women’s party, on the surface at least, is a far more sophisticated affair which also struggles to draw a huge crowd. The faux enthusiasm reaches its climax when Debbie Gibson’s pomegranate song is played and people actually start DANCING. Do you guys ever dance to a commercial. Do you find yourself saying, “Hey anyone want got any advertisements handy because I need to get my groove on! Come on! Surely somebody wants to sell me something!?”

I’m still not sure how either of these fake shindigs sell Crystal Lite but the grinning executives seem awfully pleased.

Okay, I am going to cut through all the bullshit here. There’s a lot of the requisite “he said/she said” but the bottom line is that neither team really did anything wrong. Embarrassing? Possibly. Pointless? Most probably. But they did what they were asked. They jumped through the hoops and they didn’t mess it up.

So there’s not much to pin on either team, and no major disagreements, and yet the format of Celebrity Apprentice inexplicably demands that the Boardroom sequence is stretched out to an interminable FORTY MINUTES regardless. There’s just not enough to warrant that amount of time in this episode and Trump vamps, trying to generate conflict, but the episode fails to generate any major sparks.

The women arbitrarily lose and Aubrey immediately begins crying because it’s so unfair and Trump made the wrong decision because she did really well. Trump folds like an washerwoman and immediately grants Aubrey’s charity $10,000 of his own pocket change, but on further investigation it feels like Aubrey’s crying more about herself.

As much as we’d all probably like to see Aubrey punished, Trump has nothing to blame her for - she did a good job. In fact the only criticism is levelled at Patricia for not putting enough Crystal Lite logos on the signage. Aubrey brings back Dayana and Patricia (curse you, Venezuela!) but it’s a foregone conclusion. Trump fires Patricia who also seems relieved to get out of there. The whole thing should have taken no more than four minutes - not forty. Evil triumphs once again.

I can’t help feeling the show is stuck in a rut. And it makes me miss the lunacy of Busey and co. last season. I will give Aubrey some credit though - at least she doesn’t cry as much as Meatloaf.

More next week.