This was posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
NBC is speeding through this season's "The New Celebrity Apprentice," throwing in two episodes a night, like it almost can't wait to get it over with.
In just a month, the show has raced through eight episodes and nine eliminations, leaving just seven celebrities after three were cut last night. Ratings have been modest at best, far worse than the last Donald J. Trump version. Having to trudge through two episodes a night doesn't make it more enticing.
Atlanta representative Porsha Williams of "Real Housewives of Atlanta" and "Dish Nation" fame was cut last night after host Arnold Schwarzenegger blamed her for a poor creative presentation during a Harry Potter challenge. Although Carson Kressley was the project manager and should have gone home, Schwarzenegger said he survived based on his strong past performance.
Williams, while solid overall with a great attitude and plenty of creative ideas, landed on the losing end of challenges six out of eight times. That poor track record did her in, although Lisa Leslie hasn't really been any better. Schwarzenegger appears afraid to criticize Leslie, a WNBA player with a fiery competitive drive and a perpetual sour look on her face. In the Harry Potter challenge, Leslie had zero to do with the creative, showing massive disinterest toward Harry Potter (as did most of the celebrities save for nerdy "American Ninja Warrior" host Matt Iseman.). That saved her, oddly enough.
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Schwarzenegger over several episodes found Williams' verbosity tiresome. She decided not to fight too hard this tiem around although she appeared tempted to go after Leslie. She clearly respected (or feared) Leslie but loved Kressley, noting they were creative kindred spirits.
Williams ultimately outlasted eight out of the 16 celebrities, which is respectable and far better than many would have expected given her flighty reputation on "Real Housewives." In other words, there's more to her than a pretty face. Unfortunately, she didn't win any challenges and failed to raise money for her late grandfather and civil rights legend Hosea Williams' charity, which is now called Hosea Helps but used to be Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless. (You can still donate here.)
Chael Sonnen, an MMA fighter I had never heard of before seeing the show, came across as the Machiavellian character of the series. He seemed to work only as hard as he needed to, fought hard in the boardroom and with the Harry Potter challenge 100 percent checked out. But when he noticed his team was running out of time, he thought he found a loophole: if there's a technical problem, they could buy more time. So he cut an electrical cord to gain 10 extra minutes, enabling them to finish.
He took pride in his action before Schwarzenegger. To him, the means were worth the end. But none of his teammates were comfortable with his move and Kressley called him on it. Schwarzenegger fired him immediately without even using his signature "You're terminated." He is not a fan of cheating. He simply told Chael "You're fired!" The fighter didn't even get to fly the chopper on camera.
Chael was not repentant, saying he admired his teammates for ganging up on him to drop a strong competitor. If you have stereotypes about MMA fighters, he fit it to a tee.
So here's a take on the final seven:
- Boy George. He won his only challenge and has taken home six of eight wins. He strikes me as a good teammate who doesn't complain much (outside of one diva moment standing out in the heat too long) but has not been a clear leader.
- Laila Ali. She's been an oddly flat, spiritless character on the show so far. Honestly, has she done anything interesting or memorable to date?
- Ricky Williams. He lost his only project manager challenge to Vince Neil in fundraising. Otherwise, he has been perfectly fine, winning six of eight challenges, making few strategic errors. But he's exceptionally dull, on par with Ali. His internal fire barely shows outwardly.
- Brooke Burke-Charvet. She won challenge seven as the project manager, which hit her sweet spot focused on fitness. Her only controversy was regarding her husband refusing to sit behind her in a motorcycle during a shoot. She seems likable but bland to date, along the lines of Ali and Williams.
- Lisa Leslie. As noted, she is the most divisive character on the show. She will deflect blame and critique her teammates with impunity. Given her poor track record to date, I can't see her lasting much longer. Then again, she is a fighter. You can see why she was such a great player in the WNBA. And there's an incentive to keep her around because this show needs her. Badly.
- Matt Iseman. He is goofy fun, kind of like David Coulier of "Full House" fame. His love for Harry Potter last night made him a delight to watch. He's enjoying this show and the exposure he's gaining.
- Carson Kressley. The "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" man may come off on the surface like a fashion lightweight. But he isn't. He's smart. He has marketing acumen and creative juices. He is willing to take chances, like posing nude on that motorcycle. You can tell Schwarzenegger likes him a lot. He could win this despite losing the eighth challenge.