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Gary Busey gets crazy ball rolling on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’

‘THE CELEBRITY APPRENTICE’ ★★★

8 to 10 p.m. Sundays on WMAQ-Channel 5

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



You can always count on Gary Busey to bring the crazy, whether he’s playing himself on “Entourage” or stumbling through “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.” The man is a treasure. Casting Busey is so easy it’s practically cheating.

Sure enough, for the first pizza-selling task of “The Celebrity Apprentice” (returning Sunday on NBC), Busey dresses up as “The Pepperoni Prophet” (but spelled “Profit,” get it?) to bring in customers as a revivalist preacher. You could classify that as “marketing,” I suppose. The pizza is so good, Busey shouts at passers-by, “It makes you put on your clothes like a fish!” Mmmm.

He’s a welcome distraction, because the celeb seasons of “Apprentice” don’t offer much of a challenge. If the stars have lined up a ton of friends ahead of time to donate money, then they win. Period. So the “tasks” they’re assigned are usually just a gratuitous way of making them look undignified. (Trust me, you don’t want Dionne Warwick at the cash register.) The competitions are about as suspenseful as a Girl Scout cookie sale. Where else can you see John Rich of Big & Rich working a street corner with “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy”?

“The Celebrity Apprentice” isn’t about business skills anymore. It’s about casting celebrities who don’t have anything better to do in hopes they will hate one another. This time around, Busey, Warwick and Rich are joined by David Cassidy, Richard Hatch, Mark McGrath, Jose Conseco, Lil’ Jon and Meat Loaf on the men’s team, and Marlee Matlin, centerfold Hope Dworaczyk, Star Jones, Lisa Rinna, NeNe Leakes, Niki Taylor and LaToya Jackson on the women’s team.

I’m not sure why Hatch isn’t in prison. Forget his tax issues; he’s so unjustifiably arrogant, it should be a federal offense. Maybe Hatch has mended fences with creator Mark Burnett. And maybe he’s blackmailing him.

Previews hint that Star Jones makes a mortal enemy of NeNe Leakes, but the only way that showdown would break new ground would be if Jones sicced her fluffy dog Pinky on her. Fingers crossed!

No, the celebrities come and go, but Donald Trump is still the star of the show, as he will tell you. “When it comes to big stars, I should know,” Trump brags at the beginning. “Piers Morgan, Joan Rivers, Bret Michaels — huge. And where were they before they won ‘Celebrity Apprentice’?” He’s a kingmaker! A kingmaker!

In his own way, Trump is as much a blathering oddity as Busey. He has a way of saying things that are just this side of offensive. At one point, a cellphone ring interrupts the boardroom (Busey’s, of course). “Marlee said she didn’t hear it,” Trump says of the deaf actress. “How cute is that?”

Imagine the comments that have been edited out.



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