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March 10, 2011  | by: Dania McDermott

Celebrity Apprentice Season 4

Proving that its merits lay less in raising money for charity than encouraging off-kilter celebrities to engage in pissing contests, Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice premiered this Sunday night with just the right dose of drama for a season debut. “The circus is back in town,” Trump promised in the show’s opening sequence. “And you’re looking at the ringmaster.”

He’s not kidding. With a line-up that clamors for conflict, the 11th season of The Apprentice franchise (and the 4th Celebrity installment) may very well be its best yet. Boasting an assortment of egos as diverse as they are zany, episode one of the reality hit fulfilled the needs of those thirsty for celebrity bitchery – and, as expected, hinted at more to come.

Taking a cue from seasons past, the celebs were split in teams based on gender with the men adopting the obvious “Backbone” as their moniker, while the women opted instead for the somewhat unclear “A.S.A.P” (which stands for Artists, Singers, Actors and Professionals for a Purpose… we think).

Apprentice Cast

Tasked with running two Famous Famiglia pizzerias in New York City, the role of project manager was forcibly assumed by first season Survivor winner, Richard Hatch, while TV personality Star Jones was unanimously elected the most formidable candidate by the women.

Of course, this set the stage for their respective leadership styles; Richard was “demanding, controlling, and aggressive” by infamous ex-baseball player Jose Canseco‘s account. Former teen idol turned browbeaten smoker David Cassidy had no choice but to agree. Treated like an unwanted housefly, Richard actually pushed Cassidy after dismissing every one of his suggestions. Naturally, this did not endear the master of manipulation to his team.

Over on the ladies side, Ms. Jones ran an equally tight but comparatively non-oppressive ship:  From appointing the innately loud-mouthed Atlanta Housewife Nene Leakes the role of outside solicitor, to having faith that former supermodel Niki Taylor could handle pizza-making – which she did – Star’s team was lead in a fashion reminiscent of the former View co-anchor herself: smart, confident and professional.

There were some missteps for A.S.A.P, however. The decision to put the oldest (and least technologically-inclined) teammate Dionne Warwick on register proved less than ideal, and the unyielding line of hungry patrons spoke loudly to that effect. Star, who was accused by big-lipped teammate Lisa Rinna of “not wanting to get her hands dirty,” did try to remedy the register holdup by offering to relieve Ms. Warwick of the role, but was ultimately too intimidated by the stubborn songstress to execute.

It looked like this may spell trouble for the women’s team – until Star’s high profile friends began popping in. Receiving numerous large contributions from the likes of Russell Simmons, Wendy Williams, and some executive-type who offered $40k for ultimately one lone pizza, the women suddenly seemed prime for a win. And win they did. Earning a whopping $115k to the men’s measly sum of 54 thousand, the disparity suggested that perhaps “Bare bones” would have been a better name for the men’s team.

"I am NOT a little person."

Sparing us the drama that is bound to erupt between Jones and Rinna, Jones and Leakes, and Jones and whomever, select members of Backbone were then subjected to the dreaded boardroom elimination procedure (where the real fun begins). Not surprisingly, project manager Richard Hatch was the first up at the chopping block, and he brought the undervalued Cassidy and balls-to-the-wall Canseco with him.

But if viewers thought Hatch would humbly accept being eliminated for leading his team to a dismal failure, they probably haven’t watched his performance on Survivor. In spite of his assaults on Cassidy (which included calling him “little” and “delicate” in front of Mr. Trump), Hatch was ultimately kept for his verve to fight.

Cassidy, who did appear diminutive couched between Hatch and Canseco, functioned like a man unable to stand on his own. Frequently seeking validation from Canseco, his ardent supporter against one of the most notable Survivor villains to date, the once-upon-a-time heartthrob seemed to crumble in an environment that spares no allowances for the weak. Let’s hope the remaining contestants bear this in mind moving forward – or pray that they don’t.

Celebrity Apprentice airs Sunday nights on NBC at 9pm EST.

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