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'Celebrity Apprentice' Returns With Schwarzenegger In Charge


Before he became president-elect, Donald Trump was known to many Americans as the guy who said this a lot on the reality TV show "The Apprentice."


DONALD TRUMP: You're fired.

MARTIN: Last night, viewers of the new "Celebrity Apprentice" saw former action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger using a new catchphrase that referenced his films.



MARTIN: Here to talk more about how the Terminator handled himself taking over for the Donald is NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Hi, Eric.


MARTIN: All right, so a little backstory here - Donald Trump was fired by NBC from hosting "The Apprentice" after he made those comments about Mexican immigrants being rapists and drug dealers during the campaign. So they looked around for a new host. They hired Arnold Schwarzenegger. Last night was the premiere. How did he do?

DEGGANS: In a word, he was awful (laughter).

MARTIN: Oh, Arnold.

DEGGANS: Yes, I know. It's so disappointing to Arnold fans out there. He was wooden, overly scripted, and to me, he committed the cardinal sin of reality TV. He was not interesting. It actually made you appreciate, like, how well Donald Trump commanded the spotlight when he hosted the show, and he hosted it for something like 14 cycles.

MARTIN: Wow, OK, so it was going to be big shoes to fill no matter what because he had done the show for so long, but Schwarzenegger - I mean he's a big movie star. He's a former governor. He's got a huge following. You're saying he was just kind of not relaxed enough? What was the problem?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, to understand the problem he had, I think you have to understand why "The Apprentice" worked for Trump. I mean the celebrity version of this show gets together all these C-list performers, and they face off in these business-themed competitions. And the host fires the people who lose until there's one left. Now, Trump used the show to kind of puff up his image as this titan of business.


DEGGANS: You know, he was jumping on to private helicopters. He was strutting through these buildings with his name on them. He was firing people in these ornate board rooms. It was all about building his brand.

MARTIN: And that's his world. He lives in that world.

DEGGANS: Exactly. But this new "Celebrity Apprentice" - it doesn't really support Schwarzenegger's current brand like it did with Trump, you know? It's focused on all these things that Schwarzenegger did in the past, you know - being an action star, being governor of California, being a bodybuilding champ. We've even got a clip of him explaining how to go the extra mile when you do a task, and he explains it by talking about his teenage years.


SCHWARZENEGGER: I remember when I was, like, 19 years old and I was managing a gym in Munich. And I was told to advertise a certain way as the manager. And I said to myself, you know, I'm going to go an extra step.

I'm going to go and take all my clothes off in the middle of the winter and put my little bathing suits on and walk in the market place where everyone was shopping.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

DEGGANS: Exactly. So now, if I want to hear stories from Arnold Schwarzenegger, I want to hear him talk about being a movie star, running California, not running a gym in Munich.

MARTIN: All right, so spoiler alert - we're going to talk about the results of Monday's show. Schwarzenegger divided the celebrities into two teams by gender. He ended up firing a couple of women. How did that go down?

DEGGANS: Well, Schwarzenegger has a problematic history with women. Back in 2003, the Los Angeles Times published a story in which six women accused him of groping and sexually harassing them. And last night, he seemed to be dismissive to some of the women competitors.

We've got a scene where he tries to talk former "Jersey Shore" star Nicole Snooki Polizzi into naming which of her teammates should be fired. Let's check it out.


SCHWARZENEGGER: Right now I feel like a woman that is surrendering over there, that is crumbling - oh, my God, he's asking me who we should fire; oh, my God, this is maybe too much. It's not too much. I'm asking a simple question. Who do you think was the weak link on this team?


DEGGANS: Yeah, that's not a good look.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Yeah, it's really not. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans - we'll talk to you again, Eric. Thanks.

DEGGANS: I watch the bad TV so you don't have to.

MARTIN: Yeah, you said it.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLAZO SONG, "DISTANT GRAPHITE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.