By B-Side|Friday, December 17, 2004 | 4:04 am | 33 Comments
Memo to NBC: Never ever EVER do that again.
After weeks and weeks of entertaining, campy, and often exciting episodes of The Apprentice, NBC did what it does best: killed it. Yes, the network supersized, inflated, bloated, expanded, and stretched out what should have been a tight, intense finale into a hollow, boring three hour marathon full of such stall-worthy moments as a musical interlude from The O.J.’s and a cameo appearance by Sugar Ray Leonard to tout his DOA reality offering, “The Contender”. It was a less than thrilling attempt by Jeff Zucker & Co. to fill out the Must Not See TV slate currently occupied by laugh-free sitcoms Joey and Will & Grace, and to that end, I suppose this puffed up version of The Apprentice did offer more entertainment than those sitcoms. But still, I feel like I’ve emerged about five years older, and I’m not sure, but I think I have a lovely collection of bed sores to boot.
Anyway, let’s rev up the time machine and head back a few presidential elections ago to when this finale started off. (For those of you unfamiliar with sarcasm, fear not. You did not in fact miss any elections.)Our trip back in time started off with, well, a trip back in time. As is the case with most reality finales, we endured through a delightful “Here’s what you missed while you were watching CSI, jackasses” montage of the season. I alternately zoned out and reminisced during this time, but at about the ten minute mark, I was ready to stuff a sock into Trump’s mouth and shout “Stop yelling at me! I’m sensitive!” When the montage was over, we returned to last week’s cliffhanger which featured Jenn dealing with Chris Webber (yes, the guy who was super popular… kind of… nine years ago) who had bailed last minute on her event. There really wasn’t much that Jenn could do beyond informing his assistant that he had bailed and he would have to live with that on his conscience… forever! Cut to sixty years from now and Chris Webber on his deathbed. His family circles around him, asks him if he has anything left he wants to say: “Yes. I bailed on Jenn from The Apprentice 2. It’s weighed on my conscience ever since then. Please, don’t let me go to hell!” Sadly, he winds up in hell. Sorry, Jenn’s a pretty powerful woman.
Over on Kelly’s team, his bumbling employees John and Raj grappled with the complex task of gift bag assembly. Raj in particular didn’t seem to understand how it worked. It’s a difficult task, I must admit. I mean, not only do you have to put items in a bag, but you got to make sure that, uh, you don’t turn the bag upside down and spill everything out? Okay, Raj is an idiot. Kelly kept a watchful eye on Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and they stuffed the bags, and I’m surprised he didn’t add: “Why don’t we put little spreadsheets in the bags. Everyone loves those!” Kelly then stroked his Microsoft Excel CD and whispered “Nothing comes between us. Nothing.”
Unfortunately, with ADD descending upon John and Raj, they were left with nothing to do except bust out a bottle of wine and drink the night away. This led to a goofy cardboard molestation where it appeared that the two guys were showering themselves with the remnants of an unlucky gift bag. As the two giggled, I couldn’t help wondering if maybe there had been a little doobie action on the polo fields. You know Carolyn was all over that.
Speaking of Carolyn, the poor lady was stuck out in the rain. When interviewing her about Kelly’s performance, the producers placed her in the middle of a downpour with nothing but a cheap umbrella to keep her golden coif fluffy and dry. Were there no dry areas? Was the Greenwich Country Club afraid an overhang might attract Jews and Blacks?
Meanwhile, desktop publishing reared its ugly head as the Achilles heal for both Jenn and Kelly. Instead of spending valuable time strategizing for the next morning or getting some much needed sleep, Jenn was up to the wee hours printing out signs and what I can only imagine were hate letters to Chris Webber (Sample letter: “Dear Chris, I hate you. I carry a knife in my blonde helmet. I intend to use it on you if we ever meet. I will never forget. Never.”). Kelly and Elizabeth meanwhile spent a good portion of the night searching for a Kinkos in Connecticut. What started out as a simple task became incredibly more taxing as the two instantly became stuck in a never ending construction cone loop. At least that’s how it looked since every time Kelly expressed anxiety, we cut to the same footage of the van driving by the cones (apparently not all loop dwellers were as lucky as Kelly. One poor sap wound up crashed on the side of the road. Carolyn SO wouldn’t approve). Elizabeth was of no use to Kelly during this experience as she merely sat in the back seat and seemed absorbed in the powers of her laptop. I sort of feared a Poltergeist moment, but if some ghost popped out of the computer screen, I’m sure Kelly would have just delegated it to making gift bags. Worst haunting EVER.
While the Fellowship of the Kinkos trekked into White Plains, John and Raj struggled with the always challenging task of sign moving. The two had some billboard-sized Genworth presentation that they managed to destroy as they hauled it across the polo field. When it became apparent that this endeavor had become a huge failure, the two resigned to discuss the various critters of the night, ultimately playing a semi “Name that tune” for geese and frogs. How Trump could fire these guys is beyond me.
The next morning, Jenn’s team was ready to attack their mission. Pamela sent shudders across the nation as she debuted her midriff-baring “I’m NBA friendly” outfit. Meanwhile, the lovely ladies of Genworth returned to scowl and exude crabbiness. After careful inspection of their faces, I couldn’t help wondering if maybe these women were actually trannies from Santa Monica Boulevard. Either way, they sure made Pamela’s jowls look sexy.
Over in Greenwich, Kelly’s team was having some internal chaos. Apparently when John and Raj had broken the Genworth sign, they had just left it on the polo field in some misconceived hope that it would simply dissolve into the Earth. When Elizabeth ordered them to pick it up, the two guys hopped on a John Deer cart and zipped off to the clubhouse. Well, Elizabeth wouldn’t stand for that. She and her cameraman buddy hopped into their own John Deer cart (memo to Raj – slash her tires next time) and chased the guys down. Ultimately, she cornered them and announced that she was going to be a dictator. This led to a general bickerfest, but luckily Kelly was there to handle the situation. “The only problem are the feelings,” he told the group, then adding “By the way, I still love you guys so much. Group hug? Let’s go have some cheesecake and talk about Blanche and Rose.”
Okay, that last part didn’t happen, but Kelly did ask if everyone could all be nicer. Yes Dad. Everyone apologized to each other, with Elizabeth stating “I’m sorry if I came in here today acting like a dictator.” That’s okay. We know you didn’t mean to, even though you did say “I’m going to be a dictator.” Apparently she meant dictator like Mussolini, not Hitler. You know, all tough and angry, but basically ineffective and less memorable (and without the sweet mustache).
Back in Jenville, XBox had shown up to provide a video game lounge for the NBA players. This was all fun and great until the power shut off right when Los Angeles Clipper Corey Maggette was in the middle of Halo. The Microsoft guy was understandably peeved, but I think that was because with each passing minute the NBA players went without video games, the greater the chance they’d realize they were hanging out with a dorky Microsoft guy. And I think we can all agree: dorky Microsoft guys really suck. Luckily the power returned — thanks to a happy facilities woman who I’ll just call Doris — and Corey was able to get back to his game, as evidenced by about twenty shots of him playing on the couch.
Meanwhile, Kelly had a few fires to put out as well. Actually, it wasn’t so much fires as it was spray paint. Apparently the Wisk logos on the grass were unacceptable to the Polo fields manager Chris – aka the darling of the Upper East Side. Paint on the field can make the horses nervous, and by horses, I mean stodgy WASPs, but luckily for Kelly, Wisk was fairly lowkey about the situation and told him to just slap the logos in the next best place. This led to an intense logo quest as Kelly scoured the area for the perfect Wisk location. Ultimately, Kelly bumped into a field painter who helped him move the logos to a better place. Was it me or did the painter have an uncanny resemblance to David Duchovny? Times must be really tough now that the X-Files are over.
Suddenly the soundtrack changed to an up-tempo and jazzy (READ: urban) selection of public domain music as we gazed upon the odd sight of George Ross meandering around a basketball event. I would have enjoyed watching George figure out what was going on around him (“So the ball goes IN the net?”), but NBA commissioner David Stern arrived and jovially agreed to take over Chris Webber’s emceeing duties. I’m sure he’d be just as good. You know, older Jewish guy instead of a young black basketball star. If I closed my eyes, I’d have had a hard time figuring out who’s who.
After what seemed like an eternity, Trump finally arrived at the basketball game in his usual quiet way. And by “quiet” I mean descending upon the park in a helicopter and then riding a Gem car (aka The Trumpmobile) to the event with a gaggle of children chasing after him. Honestly, this was one of the most hilariously self-indulgent images I have ever seen of Trump. All it needed was an announcer to austerely say “Donald Trump: Beloved by children across the globe. His touch brings them joy and good health. His smile brings them fertility.” Surprisingly enough, Trump didn’t pick up his cell phone and tell Rhona to cancel all his appointments for the day. I mean, pack of ravenous children or not, he’s GOT to fake cancel his fake meetings. That’s like a tradition.
Anyway, Trump finally arrived and eventually met up with Jenn. Then suddenly there was a little noise which sounded vaguely like “Hello Mr. Trump.” After careful inspection, we discovered that it was Stacy R. who stood almost as tall as three cases of soda. Adding great contrast to this was former basketball star Bob Lanier, who the cameraman couldn’t even fit into the same frame as Stacy. Gotta love really short and really tall people. Oh, and by the way, Stacy was NOT in the hoard of children racing along the Trumpmobile. Nevertheless, as Trump surveyed the court and the players around him, he joked “I used to think I was tall!” Pause… two… three… four… now laugh sycophants, laugh! Unfortunately, Trump appears unequipped to pick up the comedy baton that Rodney Dangerfield left behind.
Eventually the event got underway. An announcer introduced the various NBA players, and after about three or four, we cut to Pamela stepping onto the court. Whoa, was she going to play? I mean, I know she’s tall, but that’s crazy! Actually, she was just on court to hand over a microphone to David Stern. That wasn’t nearly as exciting. Nevertheless, the event seemed to be going well. While Trump watched the basketball, Jenn attended to several different tasks behind the scenes. Several times she told Pamela to alert Trump about a VIP reception, something Pamela was more than happy to do. Or actually not do. Before we knew it, Trump zipped out of the event (although not before a few more high fives and silly gestures by the chopper) and flew off to Greenwich. Um, Pamela, I think the point was to tell him about the reception in person, not by telekinesis.
Meanwhile, over at the WASPy event, Kelly was dilly-dallying, much to Carolyn’s chagrin. “I’d say you should run,” she said, referring to his need to greet guests. Kelly nodded and then returned to his laptop to fiddle with this spreadsheet once again. Can’t… leave… spreadsheet. “Don’t listen to the mean lady. You know it’s just me and you,” Kelly said to his spreadsheet. “I love you too, spreadsheet. No, I already told you. You don’t look fat. You’re beautiful.”
Unfortunately, Kelly’s dedication to The Donald’s seating arrangements wasn’t as thorough as his devotion to his laptop. Trump and Carolyn were presented with three nasty chairs which were broken, dirty, and — send the kids out of the room for this one — not lined up correctly. Kelly tried to smooth things over by offering them complimentary spreadsheets (okay okay, he gave them clean chairs, not spreadsheets), but the damage had been done.
Chair mishaps be damned, Kelly’s event went off without a hitch. I personally was expecting a Trump/Milania reenactment of the famous Pretty Woman scene at the polo match, but alas, Trump did not indiscreetly admit that his fiancé might be a prostitute. Eventually, Donald departed on his helicopter, and we all breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the event was over. Oh shit, no, it wasn’t. Tony Bennett still had to sing, and even worse, our favorite Upper East Side college dropout had some bad news to deliver: Chris Webber had trashed the party tent! No, that wasn’t it. Instead Chris Brandt informed Kelly that the clubhouse and bathroom were a mess, and Tony Bennett had to change there. “I don’t have the staff to clean a bathroom,” he said. “I’m from the Upper East Side, man! We don’t do things like ‘clean up after ourselves.’” With a janitorial controversy brewing, the team got to work scrubbing and cleaning and unclogging.
Tony Bennett eventually arrived with only a shade less bombast than Trump. Raj was quick to shake his hand, and I honestly wish he had said “Just so you know, I just stuck my hand down a shit-clogged toilet. So you might want to wash up after this.” Anyway, easy going Tony Bennett was fine with the accommodations and before long he was up on stage, crooning to all the blue bloods. One old lady was about a shimmy away from throwing her bra on stage as she happily waved her arms back and forth, but aside from her, the audience simply soaked in the evening and quietly wondered who had the best wide brimmed hat.
The Wasps come marching one by one, hoorah hoorah…
Around this time we had a TVgasm break where the assembled viewers questioned who had the more difficult task. The unanimous decision was Jenn because she not only had more prima donnas to deal with, but also more corporate sponsors (NBA, XBOX) as well. Luckily, the lack of Jessica Simpsons leveled the playing ground to some degree this year.
Upon return from the commercial break, Kelly babbled a little about Rudyard Kipling (reality TV is no place to be quoting poetry, Kelly) and then Jenn assessed why Kelly was unfit for the job. Yawn. Suddenly it was boardroom time (finally) and as the overbearing music informed us, this was going to be a big one. Somewhere Mark Burnett was thinking “More timpani. We need more TIMPANI!!!”
Kelly and Jenn descended to the boardroom lobby where wallflower extraordinaire Robin greeted the finalists. What’s the deal Robin? It’s possibly your last time on camera for the season and you couldn’t dress up? How are you ever going to make an impression?? Well, I’ll tell you who did make an impression: Stacy R., who opted for a sunglass-inducing hot pink suit for her return to the board room. Before Jenn or Kelly could face the boardroom, Trump grilled their co-workers on the last challenge to see who was the better leader. Stacy took a very supportive stance for Jenn, although her fidgeting in her chair made me wonder if she was going to say “Excuse me one moment while I adjust my booster seat.” Eventually, Stacy laid down the law as she said “Jenn’s your man.” I would have liked some follow through on that statement. You know, like “Jenn’s your man, because Kelly’s her bitch.” I think that would have gone over well.
Ultimately, the six employees were loyal to their leaders, even despite personal differences (Raj admitted that he didn’t even like Kelly). Trump thanked everyone by saying how wonderful they were and how special and talented a group of people they were. Then everyone shuffled out as Carolyn gave a look that seemed to say “Wow, they really suck.”
After a brief cameo from the ubiquitous Trump Bobblehead, Jenn and Kelly entered the boardroom. Trump expressed his dissatisfaction with Jenn over the fact that she did not say goodbye to him. “I stood there like an idiot,” he said, regarding his walk to his helicopter. Well, at least he had his children. His beautiful, lovely children that for only five cents a day, you can feed for a month. Just call Sally Struthers. I mean, don’t call her about the kids. Call her because she’s probably very lonely these days.
George then detailed some of the feedback he received from Genworth and how the company felt ignored by Jenn. Instead of calmly explaining why their feelings were unjustified, Jenn attacked George, and like a cat stuck in the corner, he sprung to life with a mighty hiss – or in this case, a general smackdown of Jenn. As for Kelly, Carolyn suggested that he had very little control over his team, noting that he never really said anything like “Thanks for being with me.” I don’t know, but I thought that was all assumed when Kelly said “Love you guys!” last episode. I mean, he professed his love! To two men too! That’s pretty intense for a military guy.
The two candidates sparred for a bit with Jenn being abrasive and Kelly sweating (not Kevin sweating, but sweating nonetheless). Eventually, Trump wrapped things up by mentioning “Over a million people applied for this.” Yes yes yes. We know. You’ve only mentioned it like ten times already. Anyway, we cut to commercial, and when we returned, we were clearly live. The lighting was different, Trump looked slightly thinner, and the boardroom now echoed. Oh Mark Burnett! Trying to pull a fast one on us! We’ve seen too many tricky Survivors to fall for that though! But wait. It’s only been 90 minutes and we still have 90 minutes to go. How can they make this final boardroom stretch another half an hour?
I should have never asked. As the fourth wall on the boardroom zipped off into the air revealing a well-dressed audience in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully hall, we knew that something very bad was afoot. Yes, the most sacred of reality ground – the boardoom – was disrupted so that Donald Trump could have some help making his decision by way of an Oprah-style audience discussion forum. The Donald admitted that he really had not made up his mind and so he was going to have Regis Philbin head into the audience and get the opinions of a few people. Oh god. Please. What dark road are you leading us down, Mark Burnett? Well, plucky Regis Philbin emerged for this “unplanned” segment and grabbed a wireless microphone that just happened to be readily available. In the audience he interviewed many people such as Bill Rancic, Troy McLain, Amy Henry (whose cuffs looked like they had been caught in a shredder) and a few other people of varying importance. Yes, this completely spontaneous moment lasted for about ten minutes, and amazingly enough, everyone seemed to have a speech prepared. Why, a wide shot revealed teleprompters which I suppose just happened to be scrolling random dialogue that coincidentally enough were the same words coming out of the speakers’ mouths! Alas, not everyone was reading the teleprompters though. Trump’s poor COO, Matthew Calamari, had a head on collision with live television as he stammered: “wow… uh… I like Kelly because… because… because… wow.” The entire time I kept thinking “This is getting awkward. This is getting really awkward. Wait, it’s funny. No, it’s awkward. Ah ha. It’s funny awkward!”
Nevertheless, nearly everyone who testified endorsed Kelly. I personally thought Trump would ask only two or three opinions, but the segment went on and on and on and on. I thought Wolf Blitzer would show up with a map and start filling in the Kelly states and the Jenn states. Honestly, this entire segment was worthless. Not only did it kill the momentum of the show and not only was it painfully obvious filler material, but it also cheapened the entire boardroom experience, if that makes any sense. This was supposed to be Donald’s decision, not the people’s. Making matters worse was that nearly everyone was pro-Kelly, so basically an hour and a half of careful editing to make the two seem neck and neck went out the window. Awful. Just awful.
Well, after Regis finished schmoozing in the audience, we knew it would be time for Jenn and Kelly to have their final boardroom moment. Oh, but no. Instead, we cut to a live feed of some hyper Kelly fans in San Diego and then some Jenn fans in New York. For the record, the New Yorkers were much more lively, but that might have been because of a hefty black woman who was jumping up and down as if Usher had just walked in the room.
So were we at the final boardroom yet??? No. Trump brought out all the former contestants and then asked THEM who he should hire. Sure, let’s just stall some more. It’s not like none of us have anything else to do tonight. Apparently the contestants weren’t supposed to emerge until after the winner was chosen, which meant that they were onstage about twenty five minutes earlier than expected. That would explain why Sandy didn’t have time to change out of her matador costume. Apparently she has a side job bullfighting for leisure. Maria, meanwhile, looked about ready to head to the Oscars. Trump never asked her any questions sadly, but I’m sure if he had, she would have said “Please, call me Juliette Binoche.”
The Academy Award for Best Actress goes to…
Eventually we cut back to Regis sitting on a stool next to Trump’s boardroom table. Did they not have an extra chair? Why must Regis always be relegated to his stupid stool? Dammit. All this stalling really made me bitter. Anyway, after some grandiose intros that seemed to say “Let’s get ready to ruuuuuuuuuuuuumbllllllle!!!!”, Jenn and Kelly finally emerged and took their seats. To Jenn’s credit, she wasn’t in tears after nearly everyone had sung Kelly’s praises. It was so obvious that she’d be fired there was hardly even any point in watching anymore. Or was there?
Cool as a cucumber, Jenn launched into a defense that was so well stated, so well executed, and so well reasoned that she seemed like she might just be back in the running. Granted, her list of accomplishments grew a bit weary, especially when she included her tenure as president of her sorority. Trump stopped her there, which was good because she was about to detail her administrative duties as head of the French club in high school. Kelly meanwhile stuttered and rambled through his answers. Whoa, was he going to lose this thing? What’s going on here? Even Trump admitted that he was losing ground fast. Ultimately though, Trump had to make a decision. He praised both candidates, but also expressed some reservations. Eventually, he hired… Kwame! No, actually, he stared down Jenn and said “Jenn: you’re…. ….. ….. ….. (bathroom break for me) …. …. ….. (watched The OC) … … … …. fired!”
Aw. It was obvious that Kelly was the more qualified candidate, but after the Jenn thrashing, I kind of wanted her to win. Anyway, after all this stalling, I was happy to see that we could finally get on with the reunion show. Oh, but wait. First we had to watch The O.J.’s sing “For the Love of Money.” Good God. Why are they stalling again? There’s nothing to stall for! Besides, they’ve been singing that song for about thirty minutes straight now! If there were ever a reason to get a Tivo, this was it. Cue the fast forwarding. Just about the only person who actually cared for this was Omarosa, who gave the band a standing ovation. Then a piece of plaster dropped on her and she fell unconscious.
You’re in the big leagues now Kelly. Well, not your chair…
Okay, now the reunion. Oh wait, another bloated filler piece. Kelly was given the opportunity to either oversee a project in Las Vegas, or he could work in New York City on the gargantuan Trump Place housing development. Just when we thought NBC couldn’t pad this any more, we cut to commercial. Oy. We then returned to the thrilled, just thrilled, smile of Jill Henessy, star of the NBC dramatic triumph, “Crossing Jordan.” Wow, filler material AND cross-promotion. Anyway, Kelly announced that he wanted to take the New York City job so that he could work side by side with Trump, adding “I love you.”
With this miserable segment in the can, we were finally ready to jump into the reunion… with only a half an hour left! So if the reunion were to be only a half an hour anyway, why not cut this bad boy down to two hours instead of three? Never mind, I’m just getting testy. Anyway, the reunion wound up being mostly a big ole loveletter from Trump to his former lackeys. He asked Stacie J. to explain the 8 Ball controversy, but then cut her off to say that she was astounding, just astounding. Trump then asked Jen C. about her infamous comments. “What can I say?” she responded. “I’m a huge huge idiot.” Actually, she just gave a generic apology, causing Trump to go all Rosie O’Donnellish and praise her to wit’s end. Hey, why don’t they all just hold hands in a circle and sing “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”?
Not everything was lovely though. Trump at one point ambiguously told Jennifer that she had done a wonderful job. Which Jennifer? I don’t know. But Jenn M. was more than happy to say thanks, even though Jen C. felt it was directed towards her. Yeah, this reunion sucked.
And just when things couldn’t get any worse, Regis directed our attention away from the contestants and towards Sugar Ray Leonard who just happened to be in the audience, ready to promote his new Mark Burnett show, “The Contender.” Are you kidding me? We’re not talking to Maria because of THIS? Anyway, there were a few noteable moments such as when Robin tried to explain her coffee date with Raj, but she was unfortunately cut off before she could say anything more insightful than “The thing about Raj…” There was one thing that was particularly amusing to me. The producers put together a little montage of scenes where contestants used sex to sell. The first segment featured John serving some gay guys at a restaurant, a vignette the producers so delicately labeled “Gays in a Restaurant.” Granted, there’s really no other way to say it, but the phrasing made it sound like it was a landmark event. Oooh! Gay people are in the restaurant! And they’re ordering! Someone call National Geographic!
Anyway, the show ended with Trump admiring Kevin’s body (don’t ask) and a preview of the next season, which will have teams divided into street smarts vs. book smarts. The trailer showed a slow-motion cobra chop, which I thought was a bit odd and stagey, but we can only hope that finale won’t be as long and tedious as this one was. Mark Burnett: you know better than this. Don’t let NBC kill your jewel.