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A Closer Look at The Celebrity Apprentice Finale

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This whole discussion is pretty much a spoiler if you haven't watched the finale – forewarned is forearmed…

Last night, Donald Trump selected Joan Rivers as the second celebrity apprentice. I have spent a lot of time thinking about that. I was rooting for Joan from early on (she and Jesse were my people), but I just didn't see how she was going to take down Annie Duke in the finals.

Essentially, The Celebrity Apprentice is about making money for charity. Thus, it seems to me – as it did to Annie Duke – that the most important criteria is the ability to raise cash. Trump certainly fired at least one candidate this season based on their money-raising ability, so he certainly believed cash had something to do with it.

In the final task, Annie Duke raised over $465,000. That's a sizable chunk of change, and more than triple Joan's haul of about $150,000. There were, however, five different criteria on the final task, and Joan managed to win three of the five. So, there was a slight edge to Joan there, but the money difference was staggering, completely staggering.

Even so, Trump went with Joan as his choice, and while I'm pleased by it, I'm troubled too. What led to that decision? How could it have been possible?

Someone pointed out to me that one of the vice chairs of Joan's charity, God's Love We Deliver, is an individual named Blaine Trump. Blaine is married to Donald's younger brother. The suggestion when I heard that was that Trump was biased in the selection of Joan in order to promote a family-affiliated charity.

However, I'm in no way suggesting that's the case. Both charities (Annie's was Refugee International) got a lot of money from the show and a lot of good publicity. I just don't think it was necessary to throw a little bit more money their way by having Joan win. No, I think instead, Joan won because she was a great motivator, a decent human being, and someone who didn't alienate all their co-workers.

Last year, Piers Morgan managed to pull off a victory even though he was closer to Annie in style than Joan. I think that the difference is that Piers actually seemed to earn the respect of many of those he was competing with and against. Annie failed to do that. Everyone on Joan's team – even Clint Black – ended up liking Joan; the same wasn't true for Annie. People hated her by the end of the night; the one person on her team who liked her was Brande Roderick, but she showed such questionable judgment in so many other areas, that her liking Annie has to be discounted as well.

Annie may have had the ability to raise cash initially, but her attitude seemed to make continued donations unsustainable. Joan raised some money, but also put a better foot forward, continually highlighting her charity instead of herself. After watching the show I would rather donate to Joan's charity than Annie's – I'm not saying Joan's does better work, just that her charity seems more appealing in how she discusses it than how Annie discusses hers.

The initial influx of cash Annie was able to get is a hard thing to overlook in selecting Joan as the winner, but I don't think it's impossible. I think that good cases can be made for both candidates, and that in the end, the right one and the nice one won out, and I'm happy with that as the conclusion to the season.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • The nice one

    The writer says:
    “the right one and the nice one won out”…

    The one that spewed venom and called the loser “Worse than Hitler” ???

    Yeah… right…

  • The Fixer

    Good point about the family connection. There is another as Apprentice co-producer, Mark Brunett, hired Joan for a new reality series to appear this fall on TV Land. I think there’s more to the story of what happened. Can you say, “Quiz Show”?

  • The Observer

    Very interesting to note that while you do not allow “personal attacks” in your comments section, you seem to have no problem supporting and endorsing Joan Rivers, who monopolized every board room with her very personal, and undeserved attacks on Ms. Annie Duke. Funny how we can always justify bad behavior whenever it’s done by ourselves or those we agree with.

  • Clavos

    The prohibition on personal attacks refers to attacks by a commenter on another commenter. Public figures are not included in the prohibition.

  • The Happy One

    Happy that I will never waste another moment watching C-list Celebrity Apprentice. Trump no longer has any credibility left. Between this and the Miss USA debacle, it would be best for him to get out of television alltogether.

  • Cake

    Joan should not have even made the finals…I think there were several other players that did a better job than her. Look at the last few tasks…joan added very little value to any of those. She kept going on with that stupid chicken of the sea cluck cluck cluck splash stuff…it was only funny because she kept doing it and it made her look like a fool.

    I feel like Trump changed the rules in the end to let Joan win. Annie was the clear winner in my book.

  • Joan is a fool like Oprah

    Just like Oprah, nobody can figure out why Joan got where she is. Without support people around them, they both would fall on their face and go broke. Joan is clueless which is why she never had any ideas of her own.

  • Why could Joan Rivers not raise money?

    Wow, I guess we got a lesson as to how big business is run….Trump style.

    Here are my thoughts on Joan Rivers. She has been a celebrity for, what, 50 years? She knows many many people and celebrities but, few of them helped her out via donations.

    Why did few of JR celebrity associates donate money while Annie’s poker friends donate when she asked?

    Draw your own conclusion.

  • Gina

    Good article. The “connection” with Blaine Trump isn’t even a good one, so I don’t see why sore loser Annie fans are making it out to be that the contest was fixed because of that.

    BTW, “worse than Hitler” is not exactly how that comment was stated…just how Annie repeated it ad nauseum! Watch that scene again and you’ll see.

  • JoMama

    I used to like the show … not anymore. I do not really like Annie Duke, but she played the game better than others, period.

    She crushed Joan in the only measurable task. Joan won three of the (barely talked about) subjective tasks.

    I understand ‘the show’ pulled Annie’s event planner to make it an even playing field after Joan pissed hers off … no other way to award Joan 3 categories. Not Joans fault, but the fix was in …

    … and how can anyone call Joan, and her crazy daughter ‘the nice ones’ …

    The Apprentice just ‘Jumped the Shark”

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I just hope that Donald Trump doesn’t try to transfer this retarded “Reality Show” mindset over to Affliction. Other than that, I could give two shits about The Apprentice or anything else this over-rated Realtor embarks upon…

  • rrrrrrrr

    The only time Joan ever talked about charity was in the last episode after her famous “Don’t talk to me about charity” quote made her look like a selfish jackass. She came across extremely disingenuous.

    I really did not like Annie Duke too much on a personal level, but I do respect how well she played and how talented she was. I do not respect Joan Rivers in the least bit. She is talentless, abrasive, annoying, rude, and an out and out liar. I really wanted someone to tell Joan to eff off in the finale. It really should have been Trump. He had no problem telling every other rude celebrity (Jesse, Melissa) to be quiet when they got out of line. Why did he not do the same for Joan when she got out of line? Her behavior would not have lasted more than 10 seconds in the real world before someone called either security or the mental ward.

  • x- celebrity apprentice fan

    I can’t believe Trump picked Joan to win! Was he truley that blind! Annie was clearly the better player! Joan and Melissa were a joke on the show this year…they should not have even made it as far as they did. I have no interest in watching this show ever again!

  • maverick

    Trump is white trash who indulges in nepitism. He has his two ugliest kids on the show with him, hires his ‘friend’ Joan who works for the charity that his sister-in-law is on……….I WILL NEVER WATCH THE APPRENTICE AGAIN, and when the Biggest Loser is over, no more NBC. Piece of crap station. Trump and the River Trolls are TRUE WHITE TRASH.

  • Srevir Assilem

    Please, Joan was not chosen because Blaine Trump is married to Donald’s little brother. That is preposterous. The Trumps have so much money, why would they try to “keep it in the family” by fixing the win. Joan had a better party and that is what matters most – keeping your guests happy. It isn’t about raising the most money for your charity. It is about having the best event, period. We shouldn’t be raising money in America for people in other countries anyway.

  • Donald Trump Sucks

    Trump dislikes anyone talking bad about him, so he chose Joan Rivers. For God’s sake, Joan even recently called Tom Hanks a Nazi (Google the words Joan Rivers, Nazi, and Tom Hanks to confirm this). ————————————————————————— Joan Rivers is basically one nasty woman. I got sucked into this show late in the season, but never again. Donald Trump, you really are a ROYAL jackass!!!

  • are you really surprised?

    NBC and Trump should announce that they will with another 250,000$ to Refugee International. I dont really care which ‘celebrity’ wins, but Refugee International was robbed of a lot of money.

  • Jerrry Jenkins

    Jon should have been fired SEVERAL shows before the final; remember Joan being Project Manager of a event to auction off jewerly?? And Joan OWNS a jewery company and yet Joan sent a golfpro to pick out the pieces..and then loses the contest because the wrong pieces were used in the event??? Why would the project manager NOT be fired when she has the experience in doing that EXACT task for over 20 years? The golfpro did what she was DIRECTED to do to the best of her abilities yet she gets fired and Joan gets another free pass from The Donald.
    I guess winning the most challenges did not count. Raising the most money did not count. Getting more support from your friends did not count.
    In the end the end only The Donald’s vote counted.

  • mikey

    jewelry auction: Annie knew all her bidders by names, only friends were bidding, before jewelry auction Herschel was talking he could bring $50,000, Clint said he could bring $30,000, and they talked about this before they even saw the jewelry, let alone did people they have called. their friends did not come there because of the jewelry, jewelry size was not the primary factor, bidders knew nothing about quality, retail price, not all females like large jewelry pieces, they could get same jewelry some 5 times cheaper online, without flying from West Coast.
    AND…….. did friends of Kotu team members care about overpriced Ivanka’s jewelry at all ?? they gave money, but they got nothing !!
    well, they did get shared ownership of The Cheapest piece !
    Jewelry was not the primary factor.

    [Joan communicating with David, event planning company CEO]
    Joan: “buueaaaa”
    Joan: “…I want my friend to be involved in this, because he’s very creative …. ”
    ( creative ? Designers were not to provide their input !!! Remember jingle contest, Clint & Annie had to come with jingle themselves, they just had helpers in the studio to help them execute it.
    During final task, Annie was talking about clouds, invisible wires… she came with ideas herself ! But Joan just doesn’t get it. If she actually brought her creative friend – that was cheating ! )

    David Tutera told Barbara Walters on her Sirius XM Radio show Monday
    “The rules of the show were, that the producers said to us, that we cannot, me as the person executing the challenge, give the celebrities ideas”
    Joan and Melissa [Rivers] were completely incapable of giving me their insight on how the party should look. They had zero direction…. In 23 years of being in business, I have never left anyone, no matter how difficult they are to work with. Her behavior towards any human being was so unacceptable to me. [She’s] such a monster I cannot begin to even explain.”

    Trump was totally on his friend’s, Joan’s, side. And of course he kissed her, when he came to her auction room. Show was surely edited, to make sure Donald’s pick looked better, she really had to be a monster, without editing.

    Donald & Charities? lol
    “Trump Ocean Resort Baja investors were told last month their money was spent and they won’t get a penny back”