NBC has finally found a show to rival Celebrity Rehab for TV's guiltiest pleasure: Celebrity Apprentice. This second season of Donald Trump's exercise in celebrity humiliation has plunged into full-scale exploitation, from Dennis Rodman facing a pseudo-intervention on camera to Clint Black pretending to have sex with a box of detergent. Tonight promises more boldfaced names acting badly, as salty-mouthed, 70-something comic Joan Rivers, bottom right, faces off against master manipulator/poker champ Annie Duke, top right, in a three-hour live finale at 8 p.m. on WFLA-Ch. 8. (SPOILER ALERT: Rumor has it Rivers will bring back Black, daughter Melissa Rivers and Herschel Walker for the show's final challenge, while Duke will bring back Rodman, Playboy model Brande Roderick and Tom Green.) Top Reasons I Love to Hate Celebrity Apprentice:
The Blowups: Melissa Rivers made the most memorable exit two weeks ago, calling Duke and Roderick "whore pit vipers" for teaming up to push her off the show. But Rodman inexplicably lost it with Black before his ouster weeks earlier and Duke seems to enjoy regularly calling Joan Rivers a "crazy b----." The best of these blowups feature heaps of profanity and reveal the star's own pettiness more than anything.
The Humiliation: Is there nothing more satisfying to the average TV-watching schlub than seeing a famous name forced to clean hotel rooms or sell homemade cupcakes on a street corner? No wonder Rodman kept ducking the work until he got whacked.
The stupidity: Celebrities often have a canny mix of people skills and ambition, which has nothing to do with book learning. So Roderick looked at the camera and spelled out "s-r-a-p" before realizing she confused two different expletives. Minutes later, she would insist to Trump that she is not a stereotypical "dumb blond."
The Trump: By now, the show's master barely bothers explaining why he's ejecting people. Whittling down 16 celebrities to the final two, it's obvious he's making the choices that deliver the best TV, stoking Rivers' fury by booting her daughter and setting her against Duke in the finale (last week, he expected us to believe Duke, who can't even sing in tune, somehow helped write a commercial jingle that advertisers liked better than the one country star Black wrote).
It's a road to TV hell. But it's paved with succulent morsels of paranoia, profanity and big-name humiliation.