Why Arsenio Hall defeated Clay Aiken
To quote Penn Jillette, author of "Clay Aiken by Penn Jillette"
"I have NEVER felt so SET UP in MY LIFE!"
I really should have known better. Perhaps I'm a little bit too much like Teresa; it's not that I don't know there is injustice and evil out there, but I keep hoping that it won't happen this time. This is the time honored adage; if you lie down with dogs, you will wake up with fleas, and today we are all scratching our itches.
In a way, Donald Trump's televised love letter to himself is really quite a remarkable feat of marketing, a business deal that requires jaw-dropping skill. Every week, he asks viewers like us to spend at least an hour paying very close attention to two lovingly crafted advertising campaigns that are designed to show the contestant's skill in extolling the appeal and value of a particular product. The Celebrity Apprentice is one long advertisement from beginning to end, masquerading as a fundraising program for charity. One the commercial is over, Trump gets to sit on high as sole arbitrator, judge and jury, passing judgement on other people for their skills, their character, their decisions, using criteria that changes like the ocean waves and for which there is no appeal. You stay if Trump wants you to stay. If he wants you to go, you are fired. He says he bases his decisions on your performance, and I do think that is partially true, but ultimately, he does what he wants, because in his own board room, Donald Trump is God. Not even during the Simon Cowell era of American Idol have I seen a show that was so much dedicated to building up the ego of one particular person.
Celebrity Apprentice likes to pretend it exists to raise money for charity, but obviously this is not true. The amount that Trump himself doles out in every challenge to the winning PM is almost certainly reimbursed by the company he is promoting by allowing them to come on his show. The corporations almost always offer as much or more than Trump does. The charity is a smokescreen; it is the part of this game that makes it palatable for us, the viewers, and it's the impetus that ropes in somebody like Patricia Velasquez, who actually watched her primary donors raise money for her charity that was then snatched away and given to somebody else. I feel worse for her than I do for Clay right now. She really was terribly cheated. Others, like Aubrey O'Day, recognize this show as an opportunity to reignite a fading show business career. For Aubrey, the charity was very clearly an afterthought to her mission of self-promotion. While Clay has enormous passion for the National Inclusion Project, I do think that he also wanted a chance to get back into the national limelight, and it's of course quite clear that Arsenio did as well.
This season has been grimly dotted with the stories of people who were fully aware that they were fired for arbitrary and capricious reasons that had nothing to do with the quality of the work they did, and the grumbling over how Trump runs his show began long before last night. I dedicated this blog entry to a podcast from Adam Carolla, who revealed how he was eliminated for, essentially, not keeping silent when Michael Andretti refused to PM a task about cars. I have no great love for Adam, who strikes me as crass, smarmy, and inclined to juvenile jokes, but there was no question at all that his car presentation was very much better than that of the women. He lost because Donald Trump is the wild card. Adam can produce a pair of aces, but Trump's wild card - his capricious, arbitrary, self-involved nature - Trumps everything. Trump wanted Andretti to talk about Buick. When he did not do that, there was hell to pay in the single biggest travesty of the entire series outside of the finale. Trump has nobody to answer to, nobody to check his absolute power over this show.
A lot of Clay fans are not as fond of Penn Jillette as I am. Not everybody enjoyed his satirical song devoted to Celebrity Apprentice because the chorus makes fun of having heart to hearts with Clay Aiken. However, if you really listen to the lyrics of his song, available at this tumblr you will see that his argument with Clay was really just a very small part of what he objected to during the run of Celebrity Apprentice. Penn clearly thought the entire endeavor was superficial and phony, and he compares the lives they were living as celebrities carrying out Trump's little tasks to the lives of working class people working very hard in factories and diamond mines.
I do not believe that Arsenio Hall, who strikes me as being more funny than savvy and more passive than managerial, won Celebrity Apprentice. I believe that Magic Johnson won Celebrity Apprentice. Clay Aiken runs a small charity that helps disabled children feel like they belong; Magic Johnson runs a superstar charity that saves lives while giving famous people a lot of publicity. Magic Johnson is about to launch a television channel. Magic Johnson can help give NBC and Trump a lot of clout and publicity. All Clay Aiken, runner-up on a reality show long since completed, can do is be better at organizing and executing actual marketing and fundraising campaigns than Arsenio is. (He's also better at singing, although this was strangely unimportant this time, most of the time.) Clay was, I think quite clearly, very much the better contestant, and the dejected faces of nearly all his fellow contestants at the moment of victory for Arsenio say more to this than a thousand lines of spin spouted by Trump. But Arsenio Hall can further Trump's business interests more than Clay can. In that regard, he is the more fitting winner for this show.
Celebrity Apprentice is not about who raises the larger amount for charity. It's about who offers Donald Trump the best business deal. And Arsenio Hall, soon to be seen on a talk show on Magic Johnson's brand new cable channel, made Trump the better offer. In that respect, he has done what Clay did not; he mastered the Art of the Deal.
Visit The National Inclusion Project to support Clay's charity.
This just in: Adam Carolla confirms that the Celebrity Apprentice finale was rigged. Remember that Adam was actually on Team Arsenio during the finale.
- Virtually everybody thought Clay's variety show was better with much better production values.
- In the Board room, the cast was polled; virtually everybody thought Clay won easily.
- Adam, Arsenio's team captain, was confused by the result.
- A woman Adam would not identify took Adam off-mike and explained that Arsenio won because he had a deal with NBC for a new talk show.
- Adam says that Clay "got jobbed" and that he was in shock after the results.
- There were conspiracy theories flying immediately after the finale.
Adam Carolla's podcast