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Last Sunday night's season finale of The Celebrity Apprentice wasn't the first time I was surprised by the results of a reality TV competition series. Those things are never entirely predictable, and would we really want them to be? With that said, there was a level of dissatisfaction over the conclusion that came less from Donald's decision to declare Arsenio Hall the winner as it did from not exactly understanding why Arsenio won. His earnings were substantially lower than Clay's for the final task, and while he was technically undefeated on tasks, he and Clay were tied for wins (two a piece, with Clay losing one task of the three he managed). Clay stood out as the better player over all though. At least, the show seemed to present him that way over the course of the season, while Arsenio took a slightly less aggressive approach to playing. It seemed like Clay should have won, not merely for his performance in the final task but for his performance over the course of the game, and yet Arsenio took the victory. Why is that? Adam Carolla made some comments on his podcast that point to a bigger-picture scenario concerning Hall's future at NBC (or on television in general).
Carolla talked about Celebrity Apprentice on his podcast this week, bringing up the differences between the two parties and shows put together for the final challenge leading up to the finale. From the way Carolla spoke about the tasks, he was impressed by Clay's team's efforts. "One was a comedy show and one was a music show. Sort of apples and oranges but they really kicked ass," he said. He also spoke numerous times about the difference in the money raised, with Clay's team earning more than $300k, while Arsenio's total was just over $150k.
Apparently, from what Carolla said, everyone was in agreement that Clay should win. They were asked about it in the boardroom, which wasn't shown during the finale. "They went around and asked everybody, 'Who do you think should win?'" Carolla said. "And everyone just said 'Clay.' Even people on Arsenio's team just said 'Clay should win. He's just the strongest player.'"
So, assuming he's not exaggerating, it sounds like the competitors this season were also expecting a different outcome. Carolla admitted during his podcast that he was confused. And then he went on to mention something a woman told him. He's very vague on the details about who exactly said this to him, and that should definitely be taken into account when reading his comments, but it sounds like it's someone involved in the production of the series somehow…
"When they gave it to Arsenio, I was confused. I couldn't believe it. And then when I was done… I probably shouldn't mention any names - When I was done, one of the girls - I said, 'I'm fuckin' shocked. I mean, don't get me wrong, I was Arsenio's team captain, so I'm fine. We were hugging it out before and drinking white wine and shit. And he comes on the show and all that. I'm just fucking shocked. I am shocked. And one of the chicks sort of pointed at her microphone and said, 'I'll tell you why as soon as I take this off.' And then, later on I didn't talk to her. Later on, I talked to another one of the chicks and she was de-mic'ed and I said, 'What's the deal?' And she said, "Oh Arsenio's got a deal with NBC or deal with whatever company and this is what they're doing or this is how it works.' That's what she said. I don't know..."
He's not naming names, so we'll take this as more gossip than anything, but is it all that hard to believe? As though to reinforce what was said, we've already heard that Arsenio is sifting through offers from multiple networks to headline his own talk show.
Assuming what was said is true, it's really disappointing, as it compromises the integrity of the series. People can scoff at the very idea of that, but a big part of the entertainment value from shows like these comes from a satisfying ending, one way or the other. I would have been much more satisfied by the ending of this season if I understood why Trump made the decision he did, which may be part of the reason why I have an easy time believing what Carolla said. Hall is a likable winner, but his win didn't feel like a fitting ending for the season. So either that's the fault of the series for not showing us enough evidence that Hall was a better competitor than Aiken going into the finale, and Trump's for not sufficiently articulating why Hall deserved to win over Clay, or what Carolla said is true. Or some other reason. We can only speculate at this point.