On ''The Apprentice,'' assigned to write and produce a song for satellite radio, one team fails to grasp the genre and the channel number
The Apprentice (Season 4)
Credit: The Apprentice: Virginia Sherwood

”The Apprentice”: The kids create American idols

Let’s get this out of the way early: Clay reminds me of one of the many managers I had back when I worked at the Gap. He’s the same sort of bitter, bitchy little man who can turn on you without warning, even after you’ve folded and size-stickered the entire wall of denim twice in four hours, and I think he was giving me hives. I therefore proclaim tonight one of the best firings of all time, if for no other reason than I might save money on rash cream from here on out.

The project was one of those ”and this applies to real estate how?” tasks: Pick an artist, write a song, and pitch it to XM Satellite Radio, a.k.a. the One That Didn’t Get Howard Stern. Much of the goal was to make the song fit the format of the XM Cafe, channel 65 — what, Randal? oh, it’s channel 45? thanks! — on your satellite dial. Rather than try and describe that format, I will now paste in the description of the station from its very own website, because, truly, there’s no way I could do it justice:

”Growing up doesn’t mean growing old. But it does increase your enjoyment of more challenging rock artists. If your ear can discern the difference, come to the XM Cafe — where we showcase adult alternative rock in a sophisticated, artist-friendly programming presentation.

”At XM Cafe, the music doesn’t blare and it doesn’t bore. You won’t hear wailing guitar solos…but you will hear thoughtful musicians doing more than just their hit singles…plus the first sounds off albums from artists like the Wallflowers, Dave Matthews Band, Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello all in the XM Cafe!

Dear God, kill me now.

Anyhoo. This episode started off weird, and I’m going to go into some detail here, because it was just chock-full of those little details that make this show ever so occasionally worth watching:

There was this happy morning-time music twiddling away as Clay made his breakfast and answered the Rhona Phone, at which point he was told that Trump was meeting Miss Universe at Trump Model Management and everyone should get over there. (”Sounds fun!” yelped Clay. Oh, please. Like Miss Universe or models do anything for you, dude.) Please note: At this time, the clock read 6:28 a.m. Based on that information, I choose to believe that every now and again, the Donald, Miss Universe, and the rest of the Trump Models have a slumber party so they can really get a jump on the day. I’m not trying to insinuate anything there — for all I know, Trump could just cuddle up in some footie pajamas and read Harry Potter books aloud.

So Trump, Miss U, Carolyn, and George are standing around Models Inc. Trump announces Miss U has been ”the best,” Carolyn shoots Miss U the Lasers of Death look, some weird sax solo plays, Trump declares that George is back, Clay mouths ”welcome back” to George, Trump introduces Miss U to the kids, Randal gives her that smooth, stationary ”What up?” wave that you know just kills with the ladies who are not intergalactic beauty queens, Jason Schwartzman’s inner monologue clearly reads, ”I wonder if Trump will let me sleep with Miss Universe if I win,” Clay bitches about his team, Randal and Rebecca kiss up to Clay, Trump ”lets” Clay switch teams, and then Trump says ”industry,” which, as you all know, is something I live for. And the game was on.

Team Excel — with project manager Crutches, Randal, and the transplanted Clay — picked Jidé (pronounced ”gee-day”), a man of recently reinvigorated Nigerian heritage whose music Crutches described as ”Seal meets Lenny Kravitz.” The Women — now down to P.M. Felisha, Alla, and Jason Schwartzman — picked Levi (pronounced duh), clearly the Elton John of Tomorrow. And they all set about writing their songs, which involved a lot of awkward psychoanalysis of the poor singers and even more awkward singing on the part of the Apprentici. Although I must say Clay’s version of ”What About Me?” was pretty spot-on.

And then the two singles were taken to the radio execs and played live for XM Cafe’s audience, and then, shockingly, Actual Americans took the time to call in and say they liked these songs. It becomes so clear in these situations why Arrested Development has basically been canceled, doesn’t it? Sadly, the Actual Americans seemed to favor Elton John over Seal-Kravitz (perhaps because it was a little light on the Kravitz? I dunno), and the Women and Levi were declared the winners, largely because they better fit the format and didn’t get the channel number wrong on their poster. What’s that, Randal? Yes. 45. We know.

So as the Women set out to play 20 Minutes in the Helicopter with Donald — complete with this season’s obligatory Statue of Liberty as Symbol of Getting Filthy Rich moment — Team Excel hobbled off to the boardroom, where Carolyn’s hair was starring in a production of Grease. It was pretty obvious that Clay would lose, since Trump was clued into the fact that everyone hated him, but we got a nice speech about the radio industry from George. (George, who used to own hard-rock stations. Shout at the devil, George!) We also got to see Crutches and her trademark straightforward manner take Randal down a notch, at which he mostly just looked flabbergasted and not in an empowering way. The man withers under criticism like Tara Reid without booze. I don’t think that bodes well for all you Randal lovers out there.

We’ll see ya next week, kids, for the annual event I like to call Whitney Fights Off Her Turkey-and-Red-Wine Hangover and Attempts to Form Concrete Thoughts About This Show at 4 a.m. After Spending All of Thanksgiving Night Saying, ”No, I Shouldn’t Have Another Drink, I Gotta Go Home and Watch The Apprentice.”

What do you think? How did the episode work for you as a product placement for satellite radio? Is Clay incompetent or just insufferable? And shouldn’t someone offer to pull Crutches’ suitcase for her?

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