Geraldo Rivera and Keshia Knight Pulliam square off in a pie-making challenge that brings both the money and the funny.

By Dalton Ross
January 05, 2015 at 07:00 AM EST
Douglas Gorenstein/NBC
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2014 sucked. Sure, you can point out all the highlights you want, but the fact that we went an entire year without a single Celebrity Apprentice episode makes the whole thing just seem like a waste. So take your ice bucket challenges and your Too Many Cooks and your Serial podcast and get them out of my face. I’m all about 2015, baby! Because the circus is back in town. That’s right: random D-listers, has-beens, and “who the hell are those people?” contestants are back vying for both charity and camera time under the somewhat dubious “celebrity” banner, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So welcome back, Celebrity Apprentice Nation! And as we kick off another glorious season, let’s likewise kick off our season premiere recap by giving thanks and praise for the eight most fabulous and absurd moments from last night’s episode, complete with a bonus Joe Piscopo sighting!

1. Best. Show. Intro. Ever.

There is little I love more in this life than the introduction to a new Celebrity Apprentice season. The pomp! The bombast! The hyperbole! It is all beyond amazing. Which is why we should not have been surprised to see the season begin with The Donald on the roof of Trump Tower promising us that “It’s going to be bigger and better than ever!” I believe you, Mr. Trump! I believe you! We are also informed of how former contestants “pushed their own careers to new heights” by appearing on the show, which is one of the most dubious claims to ever be broadcast on national television, but much like Bluto in Animal House discussing the nuances of the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor… forget it, he’s rolling.

The descriptions of the current contestants are equally incredible. We learn that Geraldo Rivera is an “award-winning journalist,” that Ian Ziering is a “television icon” (pretty loose definition of the word “icon” if you ask me), that Gilbert Gottfired is a “legendary comedian” (pretty loose definition of the word “legendary”—and “comedian” for that matter—as well), that Lorenzo Lamas is a “Golden Globe-nominated actor” (for some odd reason they chose to ignore his Razzie-winning work as “Chilly” in 1984’s Body Rock), and that Brandi Glanville is a “reality megastar,” although one could certainly point out that “reality megastar” is something of an oxymoron. But I won’t point it out. Because I love it. Although it should be noted I have gotten very mixed reactions so far from the new cast. This one seemed nice:

“Whipped Cream Pie Fight” Celebrity Apprentice Fun http://t.co/FYK4FbX85x@EW @ApprenticeNBC @realDonaldTrump Thx @DaltonRoss

— Brandi Glanville (@BrandiGlanville) December 16, 2014

 

This next one, not so much:

@daltonross is one of the little shitheads I’ve been complaining about.

— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) December 12, 2014

In all fairness, that second tweet was likely in response to me previously referring to Geraldo as a “human dignity vacuum,” so he probably was a bit miffed about that. Here’s the thing, however: Although a lot of people make fun of Geraldo for his The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults special in 1986, I still think the whole thing was positively genius. Who cares if once they opened Al Capone’s secret vault all they found was a bunch of dirt and a few empty bottles of booze—it was one of the precursors to modern day reality television. 30 million people watched it. They had a freakin’ medical examiner on hand in case any dead bodies were found! That’s world class marketing, right there. Geraldo is as much a forefather of the reality movement as Mike Darnell or Mark Burnett. I love that kind of stuff. Plus, the guy has a bitchin’ mustache.

2. All Geraldo, All The Time

Wait, I’m not done talking about Geraldo Rivera! And I may never be. His presence on this show makes me incredibly happy. And when you get right down to it, it’s rather shocking that it took this long for it to happen. Geraldo is almost as big a master of hype as Donald Trump himself (See: The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults). I love in the premiere how he repeatedly insisted on touting his own accomplishments. “Once you’ve survived Bora Bora, once you’ve survived Somalia, I think that the task will not be so daunting,” he said of being Project Manager for the first challenge, which involved selling pies. “When you’re a war correspondent, you go to sleep knowing there’s going to be a battle,” he chimed in later while simultaneously patting himself on the back. “After you’ve starred on both Baywatch AND Baywatch Nights, the spotlight never intimidates,” he boasted while pushing pins into his Kevin Jonas voodoo doll. Okay, I made that last one up, but he did indeed appear on both Baywatch and Baywatch Nights, and if I were him I would brag about that distinction at every possible opportunity.

But his true masterstroke, his pièce de résistance, was the poster Geraldo put together to promote his pie sale, because the poster Geraldo put together to promote his pie sale featured two different pictures… of Geraldo! Watch out, everybody—Geraldo Rivera has been cloned! He’s gone all Tatiana Maslany! It should be noted that the poster also featured the word “Celebrity” in big huge letters next to Geraldo’s smiling mug. I loved it.

But one person was not picking up what Geraldo was putting down. Clearly on some sort of anti-mustache crusade, Kevin Jonas started things off by not digging Rivera’s choice of Vortex as the team name. (Side Note: I never understood why people bother arguing about Apprentice team names because there is literally nothing in the entire world less important than what you call your team name on a reality show hosted by Donald Trump. Yet people always argue about this. It boggles the mind.)

Later, Kevin complained that his Project Manager was never checking on their progress while working downstairs at the pie store, and then he also didn’t like it when the award-winning journalist sent Gilbert Gottfried outside to “supervise the balloons.” Even after Geraldo kicked ass and destroyed the women’s team by raising twice as much money as team Infinity, Kevin still found it necessary in the Boardroom to point out that his leader did not know the exact totals of money everyone had brought in. “It’s interesting that he doesn’t know the amounts of the team around him,” said Kevin. “I would have come to the treasurer at the end of the task.” Soooooo looking forward to more of this simmering feud.

3. Return of the Boardroom Dominatrix

Anytime Ivanka is on screen, incredible things are bound to happen. The Boardroom Dominatrix made a visit to team Vortex, and Sig Hansen was not unhappy about it. “Very, very beautiful” slobbered Sig. I agree, Sig! “She has a presence about her as well.” Once again, agreed! “A lot like her father.” Whoa! Way to kill the vibe, dude! But the best part of Ivanka’s visit was learning we had a Peach Pit regular on our hands who seemed star struck by… Ian Ziering?!? “I’m a huge 90210 fan,” Ivanka announced. “Unbelievable 90210 fan… I don’t think I ever missed an episode. Glued to it. I loooved 90210.”

And then the real reason for her visit surfaced. “I’m going to start pummeling him with questions about Dylan and Brenda and Kelly and all the tawdry details I wish I had known when I was 14.” You mean, like how David Silver was so effortlessly able to put the honky in phonky?

NEXT: Every mention of Bill Cosby makes everyone watching super uncomfortable

4. Not Your Average Joe

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Joe Piscopo sighting. And although it may be a sad commentary on society that Piscopo appeared to get second billing to a Howard Stern impersonator during his pie store visit, it was still nice to see the old Saturday Night Live standout back on the scene. I mean, it would have been nice had Robin Duke joined him for a little Doug and Wendy Whiner reunion, but I suppose you have to take what you can get. This all reminds me that I totally need to go watch Johnny Dangerously again, along with any other movies Joe Piscopo was in… which is, to say, Johnny Dangerously.

5. Cringing Over Cosby

Uncomfortable. How else to describe the repeated mentions of Bill Cosby in relation to Infinity Project Manager (and former Cosby Show pipsqueak) Keshia Knight Pulliam? It started when Keshia talked about how “From the days on The Cosby Show and having that great example with Mr. Cosby, the importance of philanthropy and giving back to others has been a part of my life for forever.” That great example? Ouch. At this point it should be noted that this entire season was filmed well before the recent Cosby firestorm, but still… ouch.

However, the Cosby impact on the episode was just beginning. Real Housewife Kenya Moore then complained about how Keshia was not reaching out to her former TV dad for a donation. “Keshia was a Cosby kid…the first person she should be calling is Bill Cosby because I know he has deep pockets.… Keesha, your TV dad is accessible to you and you don’t call him for a donation? Okay, that’s just crazy.” With all the recent rape allegations hovering over the comedian, one has to wonder if NBC considered editing all this Cosby stuff out, but that would be omitting a big reason why Keshia was eventually fired—for not soliciting funds from him. Still, you couldn’t help but cringe when Trump said things like “Doesn’t Kenya bring up this good point, that you have this tremendous guy with a tremendous amount of money and one call you could have won the whole task?” Tremendous guy? Hmmm…

6. Quote of the Night

So, two-time Celebrity Apprentice contestant Claudia Jordan—and that may just be the most confounding thing I have ever typed in my entire life— visited the woman’s team and insisted on throwing a pie in Kenya’s face. But then Kenya shoved a pie in Brandi’s face instead. I have no idea why this happened. Perhaps there is some sort of Real Housewives feud I don’t know about. Whatever the reason, it was the most tremendous moment of the evening because it led to this brilliant quote from Brandi after taking a pie to the kisser: “I do not like to be sticky. Unless I’m with a super hot guy and then it’s okay.” (Note to self: Start watching more Real Housewives.)

7. Best Boardroom Moment

GET SOME KLEENEX! https://t.co/9tgFAAe6T8

— Dalton Ross (@DaltonRoss) January 5, 2015

8. Killing With Kindness

The best part of Celebrity Apprentice is not seeing who gets fired, but counting exactly how may compliments the fired party gets showered with on his or her way out. This started to fascinate me a few seasons back, when I noticed that—unlike non-celebrity editions—Trump was incapable of actually criticizing anyone when he let them go. With that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you excerpts from the firing of Keshia Knight Pulliam by one Donald John Trump, Sr.: “You’ve had a great showing. You have had a great showing. I think what Ivanka’s just alluding to, you are a spectacular woman. And you have had a great showing… I think you’re an amazing person. But you’re the Project Manager. You didn’t make one call, and I really believe if you had called that gentlemen he would have helped you even if you hadn’t spoken to him in years—because you were an amazing team… and I’m doing that for your charity and Keesha, you’re fired. Thank you very much. And a great job. Thank you. Please, go back. Thank you.”

Trump also gave $25,000 to Keshia’s charity because, you know, she cried. But Trump’s compliments and kid glove treatment did not extend outside the boardroom, as America’s favorite phony baloney receptionist Amanda Miller gave a nod of respect to Kate Gosselin and Jamie Anderson, yet totally stiffed Keshia! Not only that, but then Adrian the elevator operator served up the ultimate sign of disrespect, refusing to even look up from the elevator buttons as Keshia entered the Box of Shame. As a side note, I couldn’t help but notice that Keshia never even pushed the elevator call button, meaning it arrived… by magic! No wonder Trump is so rich: He has a freakin’ magic elevator! Who knows to what magical lands he may travel and what other sorcery he has up his sleeve? Geraldo, you used to be an investigative journalist: Get on this, pronto! And take one of those broads from Infinity with you. Which one? I have no idea. One of the blond ones. And seeing as how they are all pretty much blond and either Olympians or former reality stars, that should make it easy enough to choose.

So that’s about it. Only it’s not! Because two hours of Celebrity Apprentice is clearly not enough, we get another two hours tonight! Sure, some may call that a burn-off, but I prefer the term “saturation programming.” Four hours of Celebrity Apprentice in two nights? It seems my Christmas gift came a bit late this year. Make sure to check back tomorrow as we tackle all the latest shenanigans and see if Kevin Jonas unleashes his 4.3 million Twitter followers on Geraldo. But Rivera will be ready for them. After all, he’s a war correspondent. The man is ready for battle!

Now it’s your turn. What was your favorite absurd moment from the season premiere? Hit the message boards to weigh in, and for more Celebrity Apprentice scoop, you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss. So until tomorrow, we finish this recap as all Celebrity Apprentice recaps have and will continue to end, with the immortal words of season 2 champ Joan Rivers weighing in on Annie Duke’s Chicken of the Sea jingle: Cluck, Cluck…Splash!

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