The 'Celebrity Apprentice' Joan Rivers' Episode Is Here, But Can Trump & Co. Handle It With Grace?
The sad, uncomfortable day is here. When the Celebrity Apprentice airs Monday night, Joan Rivers will make her final television appearance, having filmed two episodes before she passed last September. The episode will see Joan return as a guest judge after winning Celebrity Apprentice seven years ago, at the age of 76. Naturally, I have to wonder, does the outrageous celebrity reality series have what it takes to handle Joan's episodes with care? Well, the New York Daily News reported that this Celebrity Apprentice episode serves as an in memoriam for Joan Rivers, so that is promising.
During the TCA press tour Donald Trump told TV writers, “We had to decide what to do with the footage. So we made this show an in memoriam. I think you’ll find it very inspiring. I think it might be our best show ever.”
While Celebrity Apprentice is infamous for pitting its contestants against each other and exploiting drama for ratings, it's important to remember that Joan won't be appearing in that capacity. Anything exploitative is typically reserved for the players and exacerbated by the wackiness of the challenges. Judges, which is what Rivers will appears as, are typically treated with respect by Trump and the producers. It's also worth noting that Rivers is a previous winner and has a great deal of credibility in the eyes of the contestants.
The only thing exploitative about the series may be its attempt to milk a comedy legend's tragic death for ratings. It's a delicate balance between letting fans know that this is their last taste of a great comedian and capitalizing on someone else's loss. Turning the show into an "In Memoriam" is an interesting choice. The woman deserves to go out honorably and Rivers, being the fame-lover she was, wouldn't want her last appearance to go unaired. Only time will tell if this can go smoothly without appearing crass.
In fact, here are three things the show can avoid in order to respect the comedy icon's legacy:
1. Exploiting Her Time On The Show
The series will inevitably play up how wonderful Rivers is. The comedian is known for breaking ground for funny women everywhere and being a real ball-buster. Yet, her humor wasn't always the most appropriate. Sometimes it was even downright offensive (see: her comments about Adele's weight). Plus, Rivers' appearance on Celebrity Apprentice wasn't shy of feuds or intense drama. Can the show promote Rivers without shamelessly promoting itself? Meaning, will it go all out and show Rivers worst moments to satiate the viewers' need for drama or will the highlights only reveal her better side? Please no.
2. Coddling Her Legacy Too Much
Rivers is the last woman on Earth who needed to be coddled. While using footage of her verbal altercations on the series in the past might be tacky, re-editing the latest footage so that she is less of a headstrong firecracker would simply rewrite history. Controversy always followed Rivers and she understood this was par for the course in the business of making people laugh. I don't want to see some bizarre version of Rivers where she is only nice, only polite and only giving. She was those things but she was also demanding, often rude, and even high strung. These qualities are why she was an important figure in comedy for women: she encompassed multitudes that women weren't supposed to have.
3. Taking Too Much Credit
During the TCA press tour, Trump said that after appearing Celebrity Apprentice, Rivers' career "went through the roof." The woman was a living legend. The woman was active on Twitter until the day she passed away. It would be a horrendous move for the series or Trump to take credit for Rivers' vibrant and long career, even just for the portion after she appeared on his show. If she didn't do the show, she would have just done something else because that's what she always did. Rivers never had any intention to stop working and she never did. Her career and her status as an icon were things she earned, not titles bestowed on her by Donald Trump.
Images: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC (3)