Arnold Schwarzenegger is no Donald Trump and that's a bad thing when it comes to reality TV. Taking over the president-elect's place on his reality show "Celebrity Apprentice," Schwarzenegger is less biting than his predecessor as he assesses the business skills of 16 celebrities. It makes for a dull boardroom. By the time he looks the losing celebrity in the eye and declares, "You're terminated," (replacing Trump's, "You're fired"), he loses much of the scene's and the show's intended impact.
Schwarzenegger's tongue and cheek nod to his iconic film role could be the most interesting thing he says as he sits in judgement of the contestants. He spends most of the first episode's boardroom scene asking the celebrities of the losing team who they think he should fire, which Trump often did. But Trump offered sharper assessments of their performance along with broader, rapid fire questions. The result was a more energized, more desperate boardroom with celebrities scrambling to save themselves.
In Schwarzenegger's gentler boardroom, the celebrities are under less pressure, which means less drama and really, isn't that the reason to watch this show? They still snipe at one another but when Schwarzenegger can't even get Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, a woman who is famous for having no verbal filter, to name who she thinks should be fired, he has failed the first commandment of reality TV: Thou shalt create problems. Trump understood the dramatic appeal of keeping the celebrities off-balance and he did it without becoming rattled or even raising his voice. Schwarzenegger's attempt at doing the same is much less successful and included an odd moment where his criticism of Snooki felt a lot like bullying her for being a weak woman.
Beyond the boardroom tension, the show is about celebrities trying to overcome their egos and work in teams to complete marketing or fundraising tasks. Usually, they fail, even when they succeed and some of the best moments are watching the corporate clients trying to hide their reactions to the teams' completed projects. The show is also built on the idea that celebrities attempting to be team players is a recipe for meltdowns. Two to watch out for this season are Boy George and Vince Neil.
Replacing Trump's children as advisers are a rotation that includes Warren Buffett, Steve Ballmer and Tyra Banks, as well as Arnold's nephew, Patrick Knapp Schwarzenegger. Tyra knows how to work the camera and her years of experience judging would be models on "America's Next Top Model" serves her well here as she offers more interesting insight in the boardroom than either Schwarzenegger. Unfortunately, she's given too little to do. Patrick is a man of few words and sometimes those words are critique but he speaks so infrequently, it's easy to forget he's at the table.
Trump has already weighed in with his assessment of the reboot, tweeting about the premiere's low ratings. It seems that the audience has spoken and this new version should be terminated.
"The New Celebrity Apprentice" is on Mondays at 8 p.m. EDT on NBC.
-- Melissa Crawley is the author of "Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing.'" She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.