In the Season 5 finale of "Celebrity Apprentice," Clay Aiken and Arsenio Hall faced off. The two had very different management styles: Arsenio being laid back and Clay being a tense micromanager. For Clay, who was the Season 2 "American Idol" runner-up, it was deja vu, as he once more came in second.
Although Clay nearly doubled Arsenio's fundraising (bringing in $301,500 to Arsenio's $167,100), Arsenio won over real-estate mogul Donald Trump by making an emotional appeal in his final interview, reminding The Donald of his personal connection to his charity, the Magic Johnson Foundation, having lost a cousin to HIV/AIDS.
But before the two met with Trump in the American Museum of Natural History in New York for the live finale, there were two hours of drama, as video of their tasks was undercut with live introductions and filler, such as a pointless montage of contestant Lou Ferrigno repeating his favorite term, "110 percent."
In last week's show, Arsenio and Clay had been working on their charity events, which included decorating a space, hiring caterers, shooting a PSA, planning entertainment, and soliciting donations. At the close of that episode, there'd been a couple cliffhangers. For Arsenio, the question was whether the footage a West Coast team had shot of Magic Johnson was going to be usable for the PSA. For Clay, the question was whether team member Debbie Gibson had been sufficiently annoyed with him to quit. She was taking it personally that he was micromanaging her tasks: putting together the musical performance and hiring her cousin, a mural artist, to paint their space.
Early in the finale, Arsenio's dilemma was resolved, as usable footage of Magic materialized. Likewise, Debbie's cousin e-mailed photos of her past work, which helped to resolve Clay's anxiety over not seeing a sketch. "Trust goes a long way when you're trying to do something in a time crunch," Debbie said, with just a hint of irritation.
Tension also rose on Team Arsenio, as Arsenio didn't like that Adam Carolla, who was in charge of the team's performance, wanted to do roast-like humor. Instead, Arsenio wanted something more positive. "Do I get a little of what I want?" Arsenio asked Adam. In a confessional, Adam said that it was unclear to him what Arsenio wanted.
Meanwhile, Clay was stepping on Aubrey O'Day's toes, checking in on her work decorating the event space in their "Let's Play" theme, which fit with his charity, the National Inclusion Project. She was irked because she was certain she knew what she was doing. But then again, she'd been equally confident each time she lost a task.
The events themselves ran so smoothly that, compared to previous years when big gaffes seemed destined to derail the finalists, they were almost an anticlimax. Both groups received large checks from celebrities, and their very different events -- a carnival-inspired party for Clay and a more chic, sophisticated party for Arsenio -- both went off without a hitch. The two produced shows that highlighted the strengths of their team members, including a duet of "Baby Love" featuring Debbie with Dee Snider.
Thank goodness there were live interviews to provide a little extra drama.
After Dayana Mendoza, Victoria Gotti, and Tia Carrere all dumped on Lisa Lampanelli for being a divisive force on the women's team, the comedian laughed it off, behaving more graciously than she ever had this season. She attributed all of her nastiness to being menopausal.
While Lisa had worked hard on Arsenio's team for his final task, she wanted Clay to win, with whom she'd bonded in recent weeks. She'd even given him a $10,000 donation, unbeknownst to Arsenio. She added, though, that she wanted Arsenio to get another late-night show.
As the show came to an end, drama gave way to inclusion. The two finalists performed a song together, a rousing version of "Lean on Me," with enthusiastic backing from Vy Higgenson's Gospel for Teens Choir. After he was crowned this season's winner, Arsenio kept his arm around Clay as he walked forward to greet the crowd, seemingly to share the victory with his friend. While the disappointment was all too familiar to Clay and his fans, Arsenio's fervor for his charity won out.
Other articles by Alyce Wilson:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Arsenio Hall
- Clay Aiken