Stay Tuned: 'Celebrity Apprentice': I'll miss you, Gary Busey
Gary Busey is kind of crazy. Or at least that's what he wants us to think. If you've watched him on “Celebrity Apprentice,” you will know that he makes nonsensical proclamations and creates definitions for words by turning them into acronyms.
Busey's nontraditional approach finally caught up with him and he was fired after his poor leadership caused his team to lose a task. Throughout his time on the show, his teammates routinely accused of him of not focusing but also suggested that in his clear moments, he could be a genius. The problem is he had very few clear moments. Early on, he blamed this on a hearing problem that he had ignored for years until fellow apprentice, Marlee Matlin, sent him to see a hearing specialist. His gratitude and joy were touching. In that moment, he was a sweet eccentric. A few shows ago, he told a corporate client that her company's line of tanning lotions made him feel sexual. In that moment he was just creepy. Gary was unhinged comic relief and just what Donald Trump's version of reality television needs.
“The Apprentice,” a show where earnest men and women in smart suits compete for a job with the Trump organization, has always taken itself too seriously. This is quite an accomplishment considering that it's hosted by a man whose hair has become as iconic as his business prowess and whose unskillful application of self-tanner is causing his skin to increasingly resemble the color of an Oompa Loompa. When celebrities are added to the mix, “The Apprentice” turns even more serious because the competition is not for self-advancement but for charity. While this is admirable, it's not the show's central appeal. What's fun about “Celebrity Apprentice” is not applauding the generosity of the famous, it's watching what happens when they suddenly have to conceptualize marketing strategies and brand image campaigns. Of course, the fish-out-of-water premise would be nothing without Trump's verbal demolition of vulnerable celebrity egos. With two words and the flick of a finger, he momentarily reduces them to powerless subordinates, a role most of them are not used to playing.
But what has been most satisfying about this season's “Celebrity Apprentice” is Gary Busey's ability to unhinge his teammates. He was the player no one could control. This was often hilarious, but not because Gary's antics were funny. Rather, it was the reactions of the other players to Busey's behavior. Their frustration, anger, confusion and bemusement kept the show from becoming a publicity outlet for charitable donations. In one episode, Busey's teammate Meat Loaf had a complete meltdown when he thought Gary had stolen his supplies for a project. It was an amazing reality-TV moment because Meat Loaf's rage was palpable and visceral. It was also genuine. Gary Busey is simply good TV because his lasting contribution to “Celebrity Apprentice” was that along with the crazy, he brought the real.
Melissa Crawley credits her love of all things small screen to her parents, who never used the line, "Or no TV!" as a punishment. Her book, “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing,’” was published in 2006. She has a PhD in media studies. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com.