Category: Celebrity Apprentice

About (Late) Last Night: Lawrence O' Donnell says 'NBC has created a monster and it is called Donald Trump' [Video]

In the wake of President Obama's news conference in conjunction with the release of his birth certificate Thursday, most commentators took the opportunity to blast Donald Trump, the quasi-presidential candidate and "Celebrity Apprentice" star who's taken up the mantle of birtherism. But MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell took a different tack.

On his show "The Last Word," O'Donnell blasted Trump's employers -- and his own corporate cousins -- at NBC. "NBC has created a monster, and it is called Donald Trump," he began.

Like many others, O'Donnell is convinced that Trump's flirtation with a presidential run is nothing but a shameless grab for publicity. "Trump needs media attention the way the rest of us need air to breathe. He will obviously say and do anything to get media attention."

Once Trump announces he's not running -- which O'Donnell accepts as a given -- "He will be forced to retake his place at the bottom of the celebrity pile with Snooki and the Situation."

In his own Wednesday morning news conference in New Hampshire, Trump said he could not announce his candidacy until "Celebrity Apprentice" winds down May 22. O'Donnell debunked this claim as well, arguing that Trump was not subject to equal-time claims because he hosts an entertainment show, and because simply announcing a candidacy is not the same thing as becoming a legally qualified one.

His conclusion? "Trump is now hiding behind NBC when asked the single most important question in front of him ... and NBC is allowing him to hide behind NBC."

O'Donnell urged his peers in the media to call NBC and ask what the network's plans were for next season with regards to Trump, whom he also called the "most deranged egomaniac" in the network's history. "Those NBC executives should not be allowed to survive another day of involuntary entanglement in the Trump hatred campaign without being asked everything they know about Donald Trump's professional commitments and performance obligations to NBC," he said.

The network announces its fall line-up on May 16, but O'Donnell says the time is now for NBC to distance itself. "NBC has created a monster who is using his NBC fame to spew hatred reeking with racist overtones and undertones about the president of the United States. NBC can no longer stand idly by, not for one more day."

Do you agree?

-- Meredith Blake

twitter.com/MeredithBlake

'Celebrity Apprentice' recap: Star Jones is a shark, and she keeps on swimming

NUP_143141_0127 La Toya Jackson finally comes into her own on "Celebrity Apprentice," only to be shut down.

Timid and seemingly disconnected for most of the season, she sat to the side, following orders and offering excuses when things didn't work out. Up until this point, it seemed the key to her survival was Donald Trump standing up for her in the boardroom.

But then she teamed up with NeNe Leakes. 

Star Jones, in an interesting move open to a lot of discussion (Show Trackers, please discuss!), paired Jackson and Leakes, who had been bickering with each other, to work together on the project. Leakes has been Jackson's sharpest critic inside the boardroom and out. I suspect Jones thought that by making them work together, she would build in a little protection for herself. Ultimately, it did work, but not without showing a hole in her armor. 

This week was all Trump: Both teams had to create an ad campaign for Trump's hotels. Ivanka Trump was one of the executives consulting on the project. Donald's sons, Don Jr. and Eric Trump, sat with him in the boardroom. 

Both teams failed miserably. When it was revealed to them that the Trump hotel executives thought it was a decision of the lesser of two evils, they were stunned. You could see in their reactions that both sides thought that they really had pulled this off, when in reality they had both created quite amateurish campaigns that looked like they had been done by middle-schoolers with a desktop computer and clip art. (John Rich was the project manager for men; Jones led the women.)

Out of that, the women were the lamest of the lame. And Jones, in an instant, flipped into self-preservation mode. If there's one thing this woman can do -- aside from fretting over printed materials -- she can manipulate to protect herself. By keeping Leakes and Jackson behind to face Trump, she did just that. 

It was risky in that Leakes could be a wild card. Leakes had buddied up to Jackson, surprisingly. It was quite nice to see the two of them warm up like that, actually, and it added a new dimension to the portrayal of both of them on the show. But Leakes had also conceded that she still believed Jackson to be the weakest player on the team. Jones bet that Leakes -- who never fails to keep it real -- would speak up against Jackson as the weakest player. And on that bet, Jones was correct.

That's not to say that Jackson, even with her voice weak from laryngitis, didn't do a good job standing up for herself. The lamb-in-waiting all season came out swiftly and strongly in her own defense, and probably offered a take-down of Jones that many other contestants have tried and failed to accomplish (i.e., poor Lisa Rinna). 

I initially questioned Leakes' judgment on this, though. If she wants to win this show, or at least pave a path toward that, seizing this moment to push Jones out the door could have been the best thing for her to do. Leakes and Marlee Matlin -- who, surprisingly, Leakes accused of kissing up to Jones -- work together like magic and could easily carry the team. They could have dropped Jones, an untrustworthy bully, and managed just fine. 

But I remembered what this game is about -- especially for someone like Leakes. Winning, for some of them, isn't about a prize for charity and bragging rights at the end of the season. It's about getting their name out there and stirring up some buzz. 

Now I see Leakes' strategy: Feuding with Jackson isn't going to get her anywhere. Jackson, I have to admit, is smart enough to know how to portray herself as vulnerable. Feuding with her would make Leakes out to be the beast. And there's no sense in fighting with Matlin, a class act who probably has the greatest cache of goodwill of anyone on the show. And Hope Dworaczyk, despite her contributions, basically serves as a piece of furniture at this point. 

With Jones, she can turn up the volume, go after her like she's Kim Zolciak on a tour bus and won't look like the monster attacking Bambi. She might look like a hero. Heck, she might even land a talk show. (And I would watch it, every day.)

What do you think? Did Star Jones manipulate her way into not going home? Should she have gone home instead? And what do you think of La Toya Jackson finally coming into her own? And are you bracing yourself for the Star vs. NeNe war we've been promised all season?

-- Rick Rojas

Photo: With La Toya Jackson, Marlee Matlin, NeNe Leakes and Hope Dworaczyk in the boardroom, Star Jones defends her turn as project manager after her team fails at making an ad campaign for Donald Trump's hotels. Credit: Douglas Gorenstein / NBC 

Tweeters Digest: The week in tweets -- a royal wedding and retwitterment

Wendell In Tweeters Digest, we round up some of the events of the week as seen through the Twitter feeds of TV personalities. In previous editions, celebs have come together over some major issues -- Charlie Sheen and star feuds as well as April fools.

This week, stars deployed their 140-character tweets on subjects as varied as Passover, Donald Trump's political posturing and the impending royal wedding of William and Kate.

Meanwhile, Charlie Sheen (@charliesheen) continued to make his presence known. Anthony Bourdain (@NoReservations) got giddy with the cast of "The Wire" (including @WendellPierce), Martha Stewart (@MarthaStewart) rubbed elbows with Gene Simmons (@Genesimmons), and Paul Reiser (@paulreiser) expressed dismay at the swift cancellation of his show.

And Paris Hilton (@ParisHilton)? She went to Disneyland.

-- Joy Press
twitter.com/joypress

More tweets after the jump.

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'Celebrity Apprentice' recap: Gary Busey tries to go big, but – finally — goes home

NUP_143140_0069 On "Celebrity Apprentice" Sunday night, it was clear the men wanted just one thing from Donald Trump: deliverance from Gary Busey.

It makes sense why: The noted actor — and, for some reason, a Trump favorite — was treated like the scourge of his team. He was distracting, he could be offensive, his head seemed to be operating in a different dimension than the rest of his teammates. And by last week, the team that had been handily trouncing the women at the onset of the season was weak and diminished. 

This was Busey's time to go big or go home. Guess which way he went?

RELATED:

Gary Busey video: My team has a conspiracy against me

For the challenge this week, the two teams were tasked with preparing a cooking show for Omaha Steaks and creating a variety package from the Omaha Steaks catalog. This was a creative mission, centered around their ability to market a brand. The women were led by Hope Dworaczyk, who finally had her chance to serve as project manager.

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'Celebrity Apprentice' star Gary Busey: My team has a conspiracy against me [Video]

Need tips on how to increase your level of insanity high? (Charlie Sheen, we're looking at you.) Current "Celebrity Apprentice" contestant Gary Busey has more than a few to offer. We caught up with the actor, who made the rounds Friday at NBC's Summer Press Day in Pasadena. He discusses his nemesis Meat Loaf, last week's suntan lotion challenge, and ... well, when it comes to Busey, it's better to let him do the talking. *high-pitched outbursts included.

 

— Yvonne Villarreal

twitter.com/villarrealy

Related:

Complete coverage of "Celebrity Apprentice" on ShowTracker.

Will Donald Trump pre-announce his candidacy on 'Celebrity Apprentice'?

Donald Trump, who may or may not have serious designs on the country's highest office, could be planning to use the finale of "Celebrity Apprentice" to pre-announce his decision.

Or maybe he's just trying to get a lot of eyeballs tuned in to the May 22 reality show.

Conservative site Newsmax, which has devoted considerable space and energy to Trump's political views and his unsubtle flirtation with a presidential bid, was the first to report that the Republican tycoon will use his NBC prime-time platform to announce a press conference to be held a few days hence.

At that event, Trump will reveal his candidacy. Or not.

"At that press conference in the Trump Tower in New York, Trump will be announcing whether he will run for the presidency," the site said.

That's vague enough.

Continue reading »

'Celebrity Apprentice' recap: In the boardroom, the weakest links survive

NUP_143139_0009 La Toya Jackson said the women were out to get her as she took the helm as project manager on "Celebrity Apprentice" on Sunday night. They ignored her orders. Disrespected her authority. Ostracized her from the very group she was supposed to run. 

Or -- and this is a big "or," so bear with me -- maybe Jackson proved that she was woefully inept as a leader, and, basically, as a normal human being, fumbling with the simple concepts of planning and budgeting. 

Oh well, it didn't matter: It was a poor night for logic and common sense all around, in what culminated in a very confusing and frustrating sit-down in the boardroom. The wrong team won, the wrong person was sent home -- no question.

This week, it was another creative challenge as the two teams had to create interactive marketing booths for Australian Gold, a sunscreen company. Executives from the company were judging the teams on their creativity as well as on how well they represented the Australian Gold brand. 

The men were led by Mark McGrath; the women by Jackson, standing up after being dogged last time in the boardroom. 

The men, as they had in previous creative competitions, took a big risk: They chose a pirate theme, with John Rich rounding up some wenches and a dwarf pirate. It was bold, to be sure, and they all really got into the act, drawing a considerable crowd around them. But, the Australian Gold executives decided, it strayed too much from the brand's usual message, and the koala mascot was nowhere to be found. 

Somehow, the women won. They not only took no risks, their display barely made sense. Jackson showed a complete lack of leadership ability -- or just plain sense. She had no theme, then -- once something was cobbled together -- changed at the last minute. And, my goodness, why on Earth did she ask for 6,000 pounds of sand?

The display ultimately looked like a child's project, without any cohesive theme, and it looked amateurish to boot. But, thankfully, NeNe Leakes -- the one speaking truth to power this week -- wore a koala suit, so they were all good. 

In the boardroom, the Donald's opinions were completely confounding: Why must he be so supportive of Jackson. She proved to be nothing more than furniture in previous tasks, and when the team stepped up to keep this project from being more of a failure than the men's, the Donald continued to effusively praise Jackson and defend her. 

I have to give props to Leakes for speaking up, and for being so hilarious. (Also: Did anyone else notice that Star Jones was on printed-materials duty again? She sure does love her graphic design!)

In any case, the women squeaked by, and I'm willing to bet this whole debate over Jackson has only been postponed a little longer.

It was the men who had to stay behind. The once cohesive and dynamic team is beginning to crumble. It all boils down to Gary Busey, but once again the Donald refused to see that. Busey is the ultimate wild card -- you never know what he'll do or say. He operates in a world all this own, and in a show like this -- and as competitive as this one — that's dangerous. Every day that Busey is still around is a good day for the women's team.

McGrath tried to pull a Niki Taylor in choosing the dignified high road of taking responsibility as project manager. But it didn't quite work. First of all, McGrath has been a sort of grating presence throughout the season. He's a whiner and a complainer; he's always the first to freak out on a task. And he did a respectable job as project manager, but his move -- to me, at least -- didn't come across as noble and as genuine as did Taylor's.

After his teammates said that the problem was indeed Busey, McGrath tried to squirrel out of his previous statements. But Trump wouldn't have it. No matter that Busey has proved to be a burden and lacked any focus -- can you name any contribution from Busey? -- he survived.

Ivanka Trump told her father that she thought he had made the right choice. In a way, she was right. He did make a good choice; if the rubric is who will keep people tuning in to see fireworks and nonsensical statements, Busey is the best choice.

McGrath may have done a decent job and may be a star outside the show, but this is reality TV. When the alternative is a time bomb waiting to explode, working with a team that can't stand his presence, that's always a winner. And next week, he's project manager. 

What do you think, Show Trackers? Do you agree that it's Busey that should have been sent home? Should the women have won the competition? Do you think Jackson was a lousy project manager, or was she right that her teammates were just out to get her? 

-- Rick Rojas

Photo: Lil Jon was assigned to babysit Gary Busey during the project on "Celebrity Apprentice" on Sunday night. Credit: Douglas Gorenstein / NBC 

Is NBC News trying to fire Donald Trump's presidential bid?

Donald Donald Trump says "you're fired" every week to a contestant on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice." But the news division working for Trump's bosses at NBC appear to be drawing up termination papers for Trump's bid to run for president.

NBC Nightly News on Thursday unleashed a scathing attack on Trump, positioning him as a blowhard making false and contradictory statements as he escalates his hopes for candidacy. The report by senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers focused on Trump's controversial statements claiming President Obama wasn't born in the U.S.

Though it was unusual for a network to take a shot at one of its most high-profile personalities, the report may also have been a response to criticism surrounding "Today Show" anchor Meredith Vieira's interview earlier that day of Trump. Some media critics blasted Vieira for not aggressively challenging Trump, who talked over her when she tried to press him.

With Trump placing second in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of potential Republican presidential candidates, the report said that Trump needed to be taken seriously, and that his recent pronouncements ranged from "the broad to the exaggerated to just plain wrong."

After playing clips of Trump saying there was no official documentation about Obama's birth, Myers showed a certificate of live birth, complete with a serial number, and a birth announcement from a newspaper in Hawaii. Myers said when she confronted Trump with the documentation, he stood by his statements.

-- Greg Braxton

Photo: Donald Trump. Credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

'Celebrity Apprentice' recap: Marlee Matlin's million-dollar — er, $986,000 — night

NUP_143138_0094 I'm glad I'm not friends with any of the cast members on "Celebrity Apprentice."

I would have been broke by week two. No matter how lucrative you may think this Show Tracker blogger gig might be, it certainly doesn't pay enough to satisfy the continuous calls coming out from celebrities vying for Trump's approval as they compete for charity. First, $40,000 pizzas. And now, some sucker paid $470,000 for a bedazzled guitar, only for the team (and charity) he was supporting to lose. 

I have to say, I don't like this kind of episode. I prefer watching the now-fired Dionne Warwick struggling to operate a credit-card machine, or former teen idol David Cassidy sweating in a pizza kitchen. Or, in what seems to be a constant image of the season, Star Jones hunched over a laptop, fretting about the printed materials — the woman cares about her fliers! 

Then comes the telethon. Sure, they raise huge sums of money — this week, the contestants stunningly pulled in more than $1.5 million — which will be passed along to deserving charities. But it becomes an I-have-so-many-rich-friends-a-thon. The means lead to a good end, but it's just kind of disturbing to know that Meat Loaf blowing up at Gary Busey, or John Rich demanding his people bring in money like a callous sales manager somehow contributes to the greater good. 

But that's not what the game's about. It's a game. It's meant to be won. 

The ever-classy Richard Hatch reminded us of that after Jose Canseco departed the show, because, he said, his ill father had taken a turn for the worse. Hatch wondered aloud if Canseco actually left because he couldn't bring enough funds to appease the hard-driving Rich. 

On Sunday, Donald Trump assigned his contestants to make art and decorate hats to raise money for the project manager's charities. Rich, whose charity was St. Jude's Children's Hospital, led the men; Matlin, supporting the Starkey Hearing Foundation, led the women.

Both project managers pushed hard to bring in big bucks, and they brought it in. Rich, who has proved to be one of the most clever of the season, called up his Nashville connections and brought in some impressive donations — with a seemingly constant flow of $50,000 check after $50,000 check. At the end of the night, the men managed to bring in more than a whopping $600,000. And they were clearly confident as they entered the board room. They proffered a pact from Trump that whichever team won would get the other team's earnings too.

But, believe it or not, they didn't bring in enough to trump the women. The women were just $14,000 shy of hitting the million-dollar mark (a gap that Trump closed for them). An impressive sum that La Toya Jackson contributed to by offering a rare T-shirt of her brother's, Michael Jackson, which raised $99,000. (Yet if John Rich's guitar could get nearly half a million dollars, I would think a rare piece of Michael Jackson memorabilia could get more.)

Trump was in an awfully generous mood last night. He made another deal: Considering the unforeseen departure of Jose Canseco, would the women be willing the let the men skip the ax tonight?

Another sign that competition tops charity, the ever-shrewd Matlin made the call that the men should still have to face the chopping block. After the "hell" of the three firings in three weeks, she said, it's only fair that the men have to deal with a loss of their own. 

Trump's generosity continued — he asked the women to stay and help him make a decision (it was a first, he said, but it's not every day a team yanks in nearly a million bucks). Then the players' competitiveness continued too: The women said that Richard Hatch should go. He had brought in, by far, the least of the night. Rich, his project manager, had little sympathy for him too. It doesn't matter that he's a mere reality television star from what is a light year ago in reality TV years, or that he spent more than three years in prison for tax evasion. 

But the men thought the one to go should be Busey, an apparent wild man with a gnat's attention span and who offers mostly platitudes or an acronym for any occasion. (After Meat Loaf apologized after his blow up in the art studio, Busey said that Loaf "excelled to a level of dancing on a rainbow with no fear and no doubt." Beautifully said, whatever it means.) They said he didn't have the focus and lacked the drive that would be essential as the team gets winnowed down. 

Matlin offered a stirring defense of Busey. She said he was smarter than everyone knew, and was mysterious and waiting in the wings to pounce. But a cynic like myself could also see something much more calculated at play. The one who stayed was the wild card who can't be kept in check. The one shown the door was a man who's unscrupulous and knows what it takes to outwit, outlast, outplay.

Richard Hatch ought to know better than anyone what "The Apprentice" is, no matter how much money is raised for good charities. This isn't the Jerry Lewis telethon. This is "Survivor."

***

What do you think? Who had the best art? Would you pay $5,000 for Gary Busey's painting of a buffalo — or for a bottle finger-painted by Lil' Jon? Should it have been Busey going home instead of Richard Hatch, or was it wrong for the women to allow anyone to get the ax? Speak up!

— Rick Rojas

Photo: John Rich and Marlee Matlin sit down with Donald Trump in the boardroom on "Celebrity Apprentice." Credit: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC 

Dionne Warwick speaks up about 'Celebrity Apprentice': In tune or sour note?

Dionne Dionne Warwick hit the top of the charts in 1985 alongside Steve Wonder, Elton John and Gladys Knight with "That's What Friends Are For," a rousing ode to friendship. One of the key lines of the song spoke of sticking together "through the good times and the bad times."

But some fans of NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" feel the legendary songstress may be singing a different tune these days, given her "firing" following several tense moments in the most recent installment of the reality show, which pits celebrities against one another as they play for their respective charities.

Donald Trump appeared irritated with Warwick ("You did the wrong thing") when she challenged him to fire her after several teammates criticized her. Instead of exiting quietly, Warwick confronted startled "project manager" NeNe Leakes ("The Real Housewives of Atlanta"), calling her "a coward."

TV Guide labeled Warwick "a bully" while the Radar OnLine website said she "acted like a petulant child."  

"Celebrity Apprentice" may have pulled a reverse whammy on Warwick. While several former participants such as Piers Morgan, Bret Michaels, Holly Robinson Peete and Joan Rivers have received boosts in their careers, some observers have speculated on whether Warwick may have tarnished her treasured legacy with her stint on the series.

Don't even think of suggesting that to Warwick, who is celebrating he 50th year in show business with a new CD of Sammy Cahn standards, "Only Trust Your Heart," and her memoir, "My Life as I See It."

Summing up her experience on the show as "in a word, interesting," Warwick in a phone interview said that she didn't feel her reputation was damaged, and that her only regret was not winnng any money for her charity, the Hunger Project.

"My legacy has already been built," Warwick said. "This show didn't do anyting but give me airtime. It didn't hurt me whatsoever." As for younger viewers who may be less familiar with Warwick, "there's this silly thing called a computer. There's too much information on what I've done and will continue to do."

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Will Oprah Winfrey give Donald Trump a hair makeover?

Trump Oprah Winfrey's producers have invited Donald Trump to appear on one of the final 20 episodes of her talk show to discuss "Celebrity Apprentice," his presidential bid -- and possibly get a hair makeover! Which is great, because whenever we choose our elected officials, we primarily judge them on whether Oprah endorses them, and whether they've got truly presidential hair. (Please let Oprah use John Edwards' stylist!)

The Donald has yet to accept her invitation, but lately he's been a really good sport about his trademark 'do, which has only bitten him once. In a statement on Wednesday, he left his options open.

"I love Oprah!" he said. "She is one of my all-time favorite people -- but the ratings on 'The Celebrity Apprentice' are so high that I don't think NBC would be very happy if I did a makeover at this time. Nevertheless, I'm thinking about it."

Oh, that Donald! His self-promotional impulse needs a makeover! But we're getting excited about this. We hope he tells his hairdresser to give him "the Bieber."

-- Melissa Maerz

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Photo: Donald Trump. Credit: Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images

'Celebrity Apprentice' recap: NeNe Leakes, would you be 'my girl' too?

NUP_143137_0028 (1)NeNe Leakes stepped forward, and Dionne Warwick got put in her place.

"Celebrity Apprentice" on Sunday night could pretty much be boiled down to that, as the men continued on their merry -- and winning -- way, and infighting continued to plague the women. And it goes without saying, it was a great show. The evening only confirmed my respect and adoration of Leakes and, of course, Marlee Matlin.

The two called each other "my girls." Of all the women on "Celebrity Apprentice" this season, I would have said the two of them may have been the least likely to be kindred spirits. But they share the willingness to work hard in contributing to a team that seems prone to cannibalizing itself.

It was so fantastic to see the NeNe Leakes I know and love from "Real Housewives of Atlanta" finally come into her own, especially this week as project manager. Unlike so many characters of reality television who fit into one box, Leakes really is in a league of her own -- is she the strong-willed villain? Is she the softie who cannot stand up to a legend? Or is this all some kind of act?

She shows herself to be complicated and, ultimately, human and grounded (as much as possible in reality television). The weird thing is, she is a creation of reality TV; she's not a has-been celebrity or a one-time legend in her twilight. This is her celebrity. What endeared her to the "Housewives" audience is that she managed simultanously to be fierce and vulnerable, shrewd and naive. 

She's raw, she's real. 

We saw that as she took the reins as project manager this week. Both teams had to create a commercial advertising a videophone system (anyone heard of Skype?) and then have it judged by sales representatives for the company.

Leakes, leading the women, took the safe route. Their commercial turned out quite well -- it was heartfelt, and Matlin demonstrated that she was an awesome actress by illiciting a visceral reaction within a short clip. 

But the men took a big risk and reaped a big reward when it worked: They went for the funny bone, casting Jose Canseco in eyeliner. (Because of a wardrobe malfunction, we were also blurrily introduced to "Big Wednesday," as Gary Busey calls his "apparatus." But let's go ahead and try to forget that.)

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