A new crew of "celebrities" prepare to do battle in the name of charity…and self-humiliation

By Dalton Ross
Updated February 20, 2012 at 07:00 AM EST
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Image Credit: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC
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The stages of New York’s Lincoln Center have been home to some of the most electrifying performers of our age. Ella Fitzgerald. Etta James. Itzhak Perlman. And now, for a limited engagement only, former Real Housewife of New Jersey Teresa Giudice! This opening to season 5 of Celebrity Apprentice — complete with Donald Trump proclaiming it to be “bigger and better” while a fountain exploded phallically right behind him — is exactly what makes the show so genius. Because how else would a table-flipping Jersey girl with an IQ of approximately negative 42 manage to grace the stage of New York’s legendary performing arts center? She wouldn’t. But this odd juxtaposition of Teresa Giudice standing on stage at Lincoln Center — while the philharmonic plays the Celebrity Apprentice theme song, no less — is not what is so hilarious. It is the fact that Teresa Giudice is completely oblivious to this absurdity. As is Victoria Gotti. As is the dude with the handlebar moustache from American Chopper. But we’re not. It’s why we keep coming back for more. Because you never know when Clint Black is going to insinuate that he uses Tide detergent as a masturbation aid. You never know when Meat Loaf is going to pop a blood vessel because he can’t find his paints (sitting in the corner). You never know when Dennis Rodman is going to abandon his post to invite himself out for dinner and drinks with confused hotel guests. And, as last night proved, you never know when Donald Trump is going to proclaim “I love Diddy.”

Well, I love Celebrity Apprentice! And I love that we’re back together celebrating all the action and absurdity for another season. So without further ado, let’s get to some initial impressions from last night’s premiere.

And The Worst Team Name Goes To…

As always, Trump divided the teams up by gender. I usually love the segments where the two camps have to decide on team names because it almost always results in people arguing about something that is possibly the stupidest thing in the entire world! Who cares what your team name is? It has absolutely zero bearing on your success in this game. Yet people usually mange to get pissy during the process. Unfortunately, there were no such fireworks this time around. Comedian Adam Corolla suggested Team Backhair and other assorted titles, but the men ultimately agreed on Penn Jillette’s “Unanimous” — which would have been a million times more impressive if they had changed the i to a letter 1 to mirror the name of the short lived Fox reality show which stuck people in some underground lair.

Alas, the women were no better (which is to say, worse), although we all had a good collective chuckle when Lisa Lampanelli said that, “I think we should pick a name to show that we’re not going to be a team that’s all catty and mean and bitchy to each other.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! They say that every year, these Celebrity Apprentice broads. Never happens. (Nor should it.) Eventually, they settled on Forte, a name equal in lameness to Unanimous. I was thinking perhaps Team Botox would have been more appropriate, but that’s just me.

NEXT: George Takei sees a shirtless Lou Ferrigno…and likes it

Sizing Up The Men’s Team

After the teams were given their task of going and selling sandwiches, we finally got to see our contestants in action. For the most part, the men acted very professional and seemed to work well together as team — which is, of course, horrible news for us viewers. Give us dysfunction, drama, and all-around dopey behavior! And while I can’t tell you how sorry I am to hear about the death of Marco Andretti’s friend, I am equally troubled by how positively boring his father — who showed up as a last minute replacement — is. He just may be the most charisma-free Celebrity Apprentice contestant ever. (And that’s saying something when you consider the likes of Hope Dworaczyk.) Which means he will no doubt be fired soon after his sympathy grace period ends.

But that’s not to say there was no drama whatsoever. For some reason, Project Manager Paul decided he didn’t like the cut of George Takei’s jib. (My guess being he is likewise not too crazy about anyone that uses the word “jib.”) Hmmm, the tough as nails biker is not too fond of the gay Asian from outer space: Who woulda thunk it? Seeing as how I am neither tough as nails nor a gay Asian (gasian?), I feel I can make an objective call here, and my judgment goes in favor of…Sulu! My Sulu support was sealed when Takei drooled over Lou Ferrigno stripping out of his shirt. “I don’t know how old Lou is now, but what a treat,” cooed Takei. “It was impressive. If I were in that shape I would be taking my shirt off all the time.” Of course, you would. George Takei makes for good television, people. May he live long and prosper in this game.

But he’s not my early favorite on the men’s team. That would be Clay Aiken. While Arsenio and Adam Corolla were busy working on their comedy routines — always a danger when you have comedians on the program — Aiken came out as smart, savvy, and super competitive. This bodes well for future freak-outs involving the former American Idol runner-up. And even if he doesn’t go on to be one of the more entertaining contestants, he’s already proved his casting value for the one scene alone where a busty half-naked woman decided to “make it rain” and showered Aiken with dollar bills while she bounced up and down and the singer held his breath and imagined himself to be anywhere but there at that very moment. (“It’s for charity. It’s for charity. It’s for charity,” he no doubt kept murmuring to himself.)

I also can’t help but root for Lou Ferrigno, even though he happens to be one of the most awkward interviews I’ve ever conducted as a journalist. Ha! Did you catch that? I called myself a journalist! Funny. Anyhoo, I do have to admit to being a bit disappointed that the hearing-challenged Ferrigno chose not to employ last season’s breakout star, Jack Jason, as a sign-language interpreter. It seems Ferrigno reads lips. Well, read my lips: Jack Jason is freakin’ rock star! Bring him back anyway! I do have to pause for the cause and give Lou credit for having the most disturbing sign of the season so far: “Eat here or I’ll eat you!” I’m sorry, but what does that even mean? It’s either an uncomfortable sexual advance from a guy who used to paint himself green or simply makes no sense. I don’t remember the Hulk eating people, do you? He yelled a lot and tore his own clothes, sure, but that was about it. What in the name of Bill Bixby is going on here?

NEXT: Can someone please hand the microphone back to Wyclef?

Finally, after his memorable turn helping out John Rich in last year’s final challenge — not a day goes by when I do not randomly start singing out “7up Retro, keepin’ it reeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaal” to no one in particular — I have to say expected a bit more out of Dee Snider. I mean, at least bust out a little makeup or something. Otherwise, I’m not gonna take it!

Sizing Up The Women’s Team

WHO THE HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE? Okay, I obviously know all the big names like Debbie Gibson, Tia Carrera, and Cheryl Tiegs. (What? They qualify as big for this show.) I even know the little names like Lisa Lampanelli and Victoria Gotti (who I might suggest bears a passing resemblance to the Cryptkeeper…if I didn’t fear for my life, which is why I’d like to go on record right here and right now as saying how absolutely stunning I believe the mob boss’ daughter looks. Talk about a knockout!). But Trump always throws one wild card hot chick you’ve never heard of into the mix (at least never heard of unless you’re a subscriber to Skeezy Dudes Illustrated). But this year The Donald truly outdid himself, signing up not one but two Venezuelan beauty queens. And wouldn’t you know it — these two South American sirens were in cahoots! Patricia (whose named is pronounced differently by every single person on the show) acted as Project Manager for the task, and when Dayana wasn’t fawning over her, she was helping her raise money in the show’s first ever Venezuelan hottie alliance!

But there is an absolute superstar-in-waiting on the women’s team. Just listen to her and she’ll tell you! That’s right, I am expecting big things from the completely self-absorbed Aubrey O’Day. Any woman from an MTV reality show that complains about not being considered one of the most recognizable people on her team while bragging about her numerous Twitter followers is guaranteed to be a season-long delight. And the delight began when Ms. Thang informed us that “I have a tendency to be heavily charming.” And modest! Aubrey’s crowning moment this episode (other than her hair, which deserves all kinds of awards on its own) was when she bitched about Debbie Gibson’s singing after Wyclef Jean stopped by for a little jam session. Aubrey eventually commandeered the mic and all America could think was: Is the lowest point in Wyclef Jean’s entire life?

The women seemed to be raking in the money with numerous big donors (Wyclef, Russell Simmons, Katie Ford). The men, on the other hand, had Penn Jillette sticking fire in his mouth and Lou Ferrigno possibly threatening oral sex acts on uncooperative patrons. Of course, Paul claimed he could bring in half a million dollars. But where was it?

The Boardroom

This Boardroom started off the way many Boardrooms do, with everyone saying how awesome everyone else was. But Trump, like us, wants no part of this. He forces friction on teams he already knows have won just to make the contestants squirm for our enjoyment. God bless that man. For the women, Patricia complimented her team and Tia Carrera in particular, leading Trump to comment that the former Wayne’s World beauty would not be brought back to be possibly fired should the women lose, to which Tia replied “You can bring me back, it’s okay.” This, of course, stopped Trump dead in his tracks. “Whoa, Tia, that doesn’t make you very smart.” That may be the case, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Tia Carrerra is NOT HERE FOR HER BRAINS! Sorry, but if you’re looking for actual brains from the women’s side in the Boardroom, your best bet may be to go consult the M&Ms “Chief Chocolate Officer.”

NEXT: This just in — Donald Trump is NOT gay

The Donald then began to address the men’s team but changed course midway through his first question and decided to start talking about how awesome he was instead: “Who was your biggest star? When you were out on the street like with Trump, they go totally crazy — crazy. The biggest star in the room by far.” Again, God bless that man. Of course, Trump forced Paul to name his two weakest players, which resulted in the biker referring to George as “meek.” Excuse me! Meek? George Takei? Have you ever survived a Psi 2000 affliction? Ever traveled back in time after colliding with a black hole? Ever had a Starfleet console blow up in your face? Well, George Takei has! Not only that, but Donald Trump — Donald Trump of all people! — pointed out how George has been a leader in the gay movement. (I’m not sure if that’s really true, but nice of DT to give GT some props regardless.) Lest anyone think Trump had suddenly become a switch hitter, he made his sexual preferences more than clear when he addressed Lou: “You were Mr. Universe, right? And I own Miss Universe, which I much prefer over Mr. Universe. I have no interest in Mr. Universe. I never did.” Sorry, Lou, but there will be no eating of Donald Trump this evening.

Results time! The men won the extra $35,000 for delivering the most delicious sandwich to Rachael Ray, but would that hold up when Don Jr. (sporting a new swanky part to his slicked back hair) announced the women had sold $126,962 worth of sandwiches, a new first task record? Considering that Paul sold one sandwich for $305,000, yes, it held up just fine. (Although it should be noted that Paul is probably the first project winner in Celebrity Apprentice history to fall almost $200,000 short of his goal and still easily come out victorious.

At this point, with the women losing, it became clear Cheryl Tiegs would soon be going home. She and Victoria Gotti had been pinpointed as the weakest two contestants, but there was no way in the name of Busey that Trump was going to get rid of the fiery mob boss’ daughter over the practically invisible Tiegs. So all we were left to do was watch Trump talk about his BFF Diddy and carry out this brilliant exchange with Dayana:

Trump: “Is you boyfriend rich?”

Miss Universe: “No, he’s not rich.”

Trump: “He’s got no chance with you. I guarantee it. Does he have an airplane? No? He’s finished.”

As crass as that sounds, you know the Trumpster is probably right. He’s always right. Just ask him! So Cheryl gets fired, and even Adrian the elevator operator appears happy to see her go. She seemed like a nice, well-adjusted lady. Which is exactly why she had no place whatsoever on this show. And so goes our first episode. Whom are you loving and loathing from the new cast? And which of these alleged celebrities have you never seen in your life before? Hit the message boards and let us know. And for more reality ramblings, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss. (Maybe one day I’ll have as many followers as super-famous Aubrey.) Until next week: Cluck, cluck…splash!

Episode Recaps

The Celebrity Apprentice

Donald Trump, “you’re fired” — you know the drill.
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