TV Review: Celebrity Apprentice

TV Review: Celebrity Apprentice

An epic struggle over nothing

By Mark HadleyWednesday 15 May 2013TV and StreamingReading Time: 3 minutes

Rating: PG
Distributor: The Nine Network
Release Date: Tuesdays, 9:00 PM

I was there – I’m not afraid to admit it – in the heady Reality TV days of 2004 when the original season of The Apprentice aired on Australian television. I was hooked watching business-wannabes slogging it out in the boardroom to gain a dream position at Donald Trump’s side. It seemed to me to be the least manufactured of the reality shows; one in which contestants were fighting for a real chance at an actual career. Sadly, the third season of Celebrity Apprentice Australia has all of the attitude and none of the promise.

Celebrity Apprentice

Celebrity Apprentice was emasculated as a series the day that its format removed from the running people who really wanted a job. The current program features Australian names like Jeff Fenech and Dawn Fraser engaging in business-style team challenges to raise money for their favourite charities. They run fish and chip shops and market Tim Tams under the critical eye of Mark Bouris, the founder of Wizard Home Loans. No-one is actually looking for a career, though. If there’s any personal gain to be had it’s the notoriety of participating in the program – something that might be quite a bit more valuable for a flagging personality. And not surprisingly many competitors seem to have set their sites on being as uncomfortable, uncompromising and unsupportive team members as possible.

With zilch at stake Celebrity Apprentice inflates into an epic struggle over nothing. Pointless bitchiness and backbiting become the order of the day. Production choices like damaging video confessionals and editing that concentrates on conflict escalate the discomfort. And it doesn’t stop when the contestants get into the boardroom. Rather than quash these adult tantrums with his professionalism, the character Bouris seems to have opted to portray is the hard-nosed bully. His boss persona is a world away from the smart, faithful family man revealed by Australian Story in 2006. Instead he’s at turns antagonistic and dismissive, keeping the contestants guessing who he’s going to turn on next.

Three seasons on and Celebrity Apprentice’s ‘all for charity’ cloak is starting to wear thin. The truth is, if we witnessed fellow workers behaving this way in the real world we’d pull them aside and tell them to get a grip. If members of our family came home complaining of such treatment, we’d feel outraged on their behalf. Sure, the Sydney Children’s Hospital has earned $40,000 from Roxy Jacenko’s efforts but would it welcome her bullish team leadership inside its own organization? Does Victor Chang’s Cardiac Research Institute actually endorse Prue MacSween’s prima donna temper? Even the excuse that this is what ‘real business’ is like doesn’t bear much scrutiny. The truth is WorkCover Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission are mandated to stamp out abusive behaviour in the workplace. Employers are legally obliged to enact policies that ensure such intimidation becomes a thing of the past – but not entertainers, it seems.

When the ‘all for charity’ argument fails producers tend to fall back on it’s ‘all for a laugh’. So is hazing, apparently, but you don’t see the Australian Defense Forces condoning that. Neither, for that matter, does the Bible:

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“People who shrug off deliberate deceptions, saying, “I didn’t mean it, I was only joking,” are worse than careless campers who walk away from smoldering campfires.

God will inevitably judge the pain we cause others, regardless of whether the outcome was profitable or amusing for someone else.