Jonathan Storm: 16 brand-new onetime celebs

"Apprentice" gals: (top from left) Lisa Rinna, NeNe Leakes, Playmate Hope Dworaczyk, Niki Taylor; (bottom from left) Star Jones, Marlee Matlin, Dionne Warwick, La Toya Jackson.
"Apprentice" gals: (top from left) Lisa Rinna, NeNe Leakes, Playmate Hope Dworaczyk, Niki Taylor; (bottom from left) Star Jones, Marlee Matlin, Dionne Warwick, La Toya Jackson.

"Apprentice" starts Sunday, seems unending.

Posted: March 05, 2011

Anticipation runs high. Celebrity Apprentice has outdone itself the fourth time around: Gary Busey, Richard Hatch, Meat Loaf, Jose Canseco. On the distaff side: La Toya Jackson, bigmouth Real Housewife NeNe Leakes, the 2010 Playmate of the Year, and Star "I'm a Lawyer" Jones.

Hypemeister Donald Trump calls this crop "the biggest and brightest stars ever," but we know better. There's not a current star among them, but this wacky lineup could provide the biggest and brightest series of Celeb Appren train wrecks ever.

Alas, as usual, the episodes of the show, returning Sunday to NBC10 at 9 p.m., are flabbier than Meat Loaf ever was, two long hours long. Maybe someone in this crew will surpass the insane 2009 performance of Joan and Melissa Rivers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnNmJ7lKCm0), but it will take a dedicated D-List devotee to wade through the stupefying preliminaries.

The celebs endlessly plod through their contrived business projects, with their two-bit gaffes and minor-league bickering, before they traipse into the Donald's boardroom to meet their maker, and the real fun begins.

Joining the above-mentioned octet are David Cassidy, Lil Jon, Mark McGrath, John Rich, Marlee Matlin, Lisa Rinna, Niki Taylor, and Dionne Warwick.

Don't worry if you don't recognize all the names. Nobody can. The cast will be identified on the show. Except for Warwick, you can usually divide the buildup by a factor of 3 or 4.

NBC has a million problems, chief of which is very few popular programs in prime time, leaving time to fill. Nowhere else in the world would Celebrity Apprentice run two hours every week (including more than half an hour of commercials).

Sunday, the celebrities are charged with running pizza shops. Former supermodel Taylor turns out to be a proficient piemaker, Warwick has trouble manning the cash register, and (wouldn't you know it?) former View blabbermouth Jones tries to run everything by herself.

On the male side, Busey, a noted Hollywood lunatic who was Oscar-nominated a million years ago for The Buddy Holly Story, makes such a spectacle of himself that, even with two hours, the show pays attention to only one other aspect of the process.

That would be the consummate personal-control stylings of the first Survivor winner, Richard Hatch, who cuts the diminutive Cassidy from the herd and beats him down psychologically.

Will it pay off, or will Hatch be the first to hear the celebrated Trump line "You're fired"?

If you tuned in a little before 10:30, you could catch all the boardroom action, including a striking outburst ('roid rage?) by hulking former major leaguer Canseco, and find out.

That just might be the best way to watch Celebrity Apprentice 4 every week.


Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or jstorm@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/

jonathanstorm.

 

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