The two-hour live finale of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice did three major things – all of them just right.
First, it solidified one of Donald Trump’s most significant achievements this season: turning daughter Ivanka into a TV celebrity in her own right. All season, she’s risen as the best and brightest of his “eyes and ears,” observing contestants keenly and making smart observations in the boardroom. (And looking casually stunning in the process.)
During Thursday’s finale, when abrasive finalist Piers Morgan reacted to her criticism of his bedside manner by joking that she hadn’t seen his bedside manner, she shot him right down, saying that was a perfect example of just what she was talking about. Jousting that quickly on live television isn’t easy, and Ivanka did it effortlessly. Donald has every reason to be a proud papa (another reason: he also had his son, Donald Trump Jr., flanking his other side at the finale) – and Ivanka has earned serious supporting-star status on her dad’s NBC series.
The second thing Celebrity Apprentice did correctly in its live finale was give the smug Omarosa enough rope to hang herself. And she did, right off the bat, attacking nemesis Piers by saying she didn’t like him because he needed to floss. Trump said it was a stupid thing to say, and a dumb move. Right on both counts – and Trump never went to Omarosa again.
Finally, Trump’s verdict came down to a tough “good vs. evil” battle between soft-spoken, charming country star Trade Adkins and aggressive Brit Piers Morgan. Sentiment, the crowd and the vast majority of the reunited Celebrity Apprentice contestants all seemed to support Trace. But when Piers, defending himself and his competitive approach, rattled off his accomplishments – number of wins, delivering the most lopsided victory in the history of The Apprentice, raising the most money for charity by far, having the deepest contact list – it was a persuasive enough argument to turn the tide. Donald Trump listened – and crowned Piers the winner.
Trump did so, I believe, because he listened. Good for him. Good for a smart boss. And, in the long run, I suspect, good for the series. Celebrity Apprentice, except for the disappointing fact that Gene Simmons left too early, was an effortlessly enjoyable reality-TV ride.