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'The New Celebrity Apprentice' recap: Arnold takes over

This was posted on Tuesday, January 2, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

The new "Celebrity Apprentice" with Arnold Schwarzeneger is very much like the old one featuring Donald Trump in terms of concept. It's like a plate of wings with new sauce.

Based on Monday's two-hour debut, creator Mark Burnett clearly didn't want to mess with a successful formula.  The changes are minor at best. There are now scenes of the beach instead of huge Manhattan skyscrapers, the losers depart in a chopper instead of a cab and Schwarzeneger utters  "You're terminated" instead of Trump's "You're fired."

Otherwise, fans of the original show will probably like this one as well.

[Then again, many didn't bother. Overnight ratings were down 44 percent from the debut of the 14th and final Donald Trump version of the show. A mere 4.9 million people saw it last night, beaten soundly by ABC's "The Bachelor." Theories abounded over why: Trump's continued connection to the show. His absence from the show. Football competition. The long two-year hiatus between seasons. It could be a little bit of everything.]

And Schwarzenegger comes across as likable as ever, even when he says stuff like "crush your enemies and make sure everyone else gets fired first." It's all an act. When the women talk among themselves in the boardroom while he's trying to ask the men a question, he gives the ladiesa dirty look but there's no real malevolence He also likes to bring up examples of his own grit and smarts from his own storied biography such as the time he promoted his Munich gym by walking around a market in his skivvies.

The teams were initially split by gender, which is done almost every season.

The first two companies featured Monday night during the debut: Tyra Banks' "5 Minute Tyover" line, followed by Trident gum. (Banks is an "advisor" to Schwarzenegger.) I thought in both cases Schwarzenegger made the right call. The guys won both challenges.

And here are my impressions of each of the contestants so far, including the two who were eliminated first: talk show host Carrie Keagan and Wilson Phillips singer Carnie Wilson.

PRIMO female team

Porsha Williams (Duluth's "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"/"Dish Nation"): Although she had built a reputation on her Bravo reality show as a bit of an airhead, she comes across very well so far on the show.  She was the first project manager, which took some guts. Although her team lost the challenge, Schwarzenegger liked her pluck in the boardroom and her efforts to defend herself.  During the second challenge, she did a good job editing the video. She shows the type of energy and commitment that could take her far in this competition. Grade so far: B-plus

Lisa Leslie (WNBA basketball legend): She is smart, sharp, intense and competitive. She has the clearest recipe at this point to win this show. During the second challenge, she didn't agree with the idea everyone else liked: Laila Ali and Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi fighting in a boxing ring and Snooki's Trident-fueled smile knocking Laila out. She felt it didn't convey what Trident wanted: a variety of "fresh" smiles. And she was right, based on Trident's feedback. She did state her objection upfront but was over-ruled. She then did her job as videographer and Trident liked that aspect of the commercial. When Wilson stupidly included her in the elimination trio, Leslie quickly dismantled her and Schwarzenegger made the easy call to "terminate" the singer. Grade: B-plus

Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi ("Jersey Shore" reality star). In the first challenge, she came across as timid and Porsha brought her into the elimination round. Snooki almost got cut but showed vulnerability, admitting she was fearful of speaking up in a room full of aggressive women. She vowed to be more participatory in the second challenge and did a fine job shooting the commercial. That saved her in the boardroom. But Schwarzenegger found it annoying she wouldn't say who among her teammates should leave. You can't play that nice in the boardroom. Her lack of competitive fire will keep her from winning. Grade: B-minus

Kyle Richards ("Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"): She came up with the idea for the Trident commercial. It was amusing but didn't quite fit what Trident was looking for. Otherwise, it's too soon to say how far she'll be able to go. She hasn't gotten quite enough airtime for me to judge. Grade: C

Brooke Burke-Charvet (talk show host): She is  laying low, as she said in the second hour. That's not a good look on this show. I'm not sure what to make of her yet as a competitor. Grade: Incomplete

Laila Ali (professional boxer): She was featured in t e second challenge on the video but otherwise, I didn't see her do much that made it on camera. Grade: Incomplete

Carnie Wilson (singer) On the surface, she seems like one of those celebrities that could last awhile given she has done so many other reality shows before this. But as project manager, she miscalculated by embracing Kyle Richards' concept in the second challenge. Then she doubled down by not taking Richards into the elimination portion with her, choosing Snooki and Leslie instead. That made it an easy call for Schwarzenegger to send her to the chopper.

Carrie Keagan (YouTube talk show host and actress): Who is she again? She tried to lay low during the first challenge and her tepid responses to Schwarzenegger in the boardroom failed to impress. Grade: F

ARETE men's team

Jon Lovitz ("SNL" star): He comes across as a bit of a doofus but he's smarter than he acts. He had a bad idea for the Trident commercial related to British and bad teeth but was smart enough to listen to others and accept a better concept that ultimately won. He and Schwarzenegger are friends, too, and he teased Lovitz a couple of times, asking him to call him "Governor" instead of Arnold. Lovitz could be around awhile. Grade: A-minus

Carson Kressley (fashionista): He is whip smart, super funny and works hard. I like him a lot. Does he have the eye of the tiger to go all the way? I'm not sure. But so far, so good. Grade: B

Vince Neil (Motley Crue lead singer): He has been on a gazillion reality shows like Carnie Wilson. He knows about reality show conflict and got into a tiff with Boy George over drinking wine in front of a recovering alcoholic and not accommodating him. That was not a good look. He then laid claim to the song he and Boy George co wrote. It's clear the two of them will have future conflict. Grade: C-plus

Boy George (Culture Club lead singer). He is one of the bigger stars here and he clearly is not the type of person to take orders well. He has his opinions and he likes to lead. Conflicts popped up in the second challenge with Vince and more are probably to come. It's unclear if he has the skill sets to win this competition. Grade: B-minus

Matt Iseman ("American Ninja Warrior" host). He did an amazing job in the first challenge as host. Although he was critiqued for creating a messy face full of wings sauce in the commercial for Trident, it didn't matter: the men won. Is he a leader or just a good follower? Hard to say until we see him as a project manager. Grade: B

Chael Sonnen (mixed martial artist). He has not left much of an impression yet beyond being a family man. Grade: Incomplete

Eric Dickerson (retired NFL running back): He seems really bright but hasn't done much yet. Grade: Incomplete

Ricky Williams (retired NFL running back and ESPN analyst) Like Eric, neither of the first two challenges really played to his strength. It's too early to say how far he will go. Grade: Incomplete


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.