After two TV personalities created ads for Universal Orlando and paid their “Celebrity Apprentice” dues by praising Donald Trump, he awarded one of them $250,000 for their charity.
That money is about the only thing that matters on “Celebrity Apprentice” finales, which are the worst part of a show that draws so much entertainment from celebrities being tested by high-pressure, quasi-business challenges. Since the decision is up to Donald Trump, it's always been like flipping a coin into a shredder: decisive but pointless.
That said, Leeza Gibbons is an incredibly satisfying winner because she was such a non-controversial contestant all season, someone who was strong yet wonderful. She also raised more money in the final task, $324,000 to Geraldo Rivera's $146,000, and won the creative challenge, too.
Trump told her, “you lead with kindness” and have “tremendous leadership ability.” He also tried to get her a job with The Today Show. Before that, Trump told her competition, Geraldo, “you're tough, you're smart, you're brilliant in so many different ways” and said “you've showed the world what kind of a guy you are.”
Geraldo and Leeza's final arguments came down to their strengths. Geraldo called Leeza “reliable” and “a safe choice,” but highlighted his craziness, basically. He said his “ideas were kind of volcanic” and “like my career, it's been up and down.” But his final argument came down to something he said twice: “we provided some good television for people.”
Yes, he did, though probably not as intentionally as he'd like it to seem now, and I'd be fine with giving his charity $250,000 for that, though I also don't mind that he wasn't rewarded for being a jerk so much.
Leeza, on the other hand, highlighted her performance, saying that she lost just three times but had eight team wins–“including the time I got you out of a slump when I became project manager; you'd lost five times.” That was the most aggressive Leeza got all season, and she quickly softened it–but she was also quite right.
The live finale had a mix of live elements and pre-recorded footage, and by “live elements,” I mean “mostly filler” and “Trump offensively mispronouncing Keshia Knight Pulliam's name to a degree that makes John Travolta's introduction of Idina Menzel seem flawless.”
(That was a trend: Geraldo introduced Ian Ziering as “Zier-ling,” but hey, at least he didn't call him “Eee-an” like he did at the start of the season. That prompted the night's best line, Ian Ziering saying during an interview, “Thanks so much for that, Geraldildo.”)
There was a nice tribute to Joan Rivers, who died last year long after filming two guest appearances on this season, but not much beyond that. While viewers were encouraged to send “Ask Apprentice” questions via Twitter, two of the three that Ivanka ended up asking were generic and useless. The third asked Vivica A. Fox why she basically gave up instead of fighting to be in the final three, and she said, “because I'm a realist” and Geraldo and Leeza were more qualified.
Geraldo was certainly qualified at making things about himself, as Gilbert Gottfried pointed out during the rapid-fire Q&A with the celebrities at the finale (“Geraldo's great, he'll tell you himself”). Geraldo's commercial for Universal Orlando prominently featured him, because, as he explained, he's a “very familiar–almost, some would say, iconic figure in American news.” The live audience's laughter could be heard over the pre-recorded footage.
Leeza deferred the production of her commercial to Kevin Jonas, who attracted a crowd at the theme parks but also dispersed that crowd with a wave of his Jonas Brothers hand. Kevin Jonas drew crowds at Universal. “He parted the waters!” Leeza said, astonished.
After their commercials were filmed, they held red carpet events in New York populated with A-list celebrities such as Shepard Smith, someone who came “on behalf of Bill O'Reilly,” and Steve Doocy. Okay, A-list Fox News celebrities. The bigger stars, literally, were Transformers Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, who were there along with the Minions from Despicable Me.
While it spent considerable time advertising Universal Orlando, the event did feature two genuine moments that reflected how important the finalists' charities are–both to them and to others.
Tony Orlando, who showed up to help Geraldo, made everyone cry talking about his sister who had cerebral palsy, connecting that to Geraldo's expose of a terribly run home for disabled children. Geraldo explained that his charity, Life's WORC, “create an alternative to those big, awful institutions.”
Meanwhile, Leeza Gibbons had Olivia Newton-John perform, and talked about how her charity, Leeza's Care Connection, was helped by the event and show.: “I said, thank you, Mr Trump for changing my life. I really want to thank you for giving me a platform. This is so meaningful for a non-profit like ours.”
At another point, Leeza said, “This a promise that I made to my mother, when she had Alzheimer's disease, I would tell her story, and make it count.” She didn't need the win to do that, but those extra $250,000 will certainly help.
Did the right person/charity win?