The first month of 2017 opens with a new session of the United States Congress, the Inaguration of Donald Trump as our 45th President, and a new season of the show that made Donald Trump famous, Celebrity Apprentice. While serving as President, Trump will also serve as the Executive Producer of the show currently hosted by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The confluence of politics and show business is now complete.
Celebrity Apprentice and its predecessor, The Apprentice, provided the national stage for Donald Trump to hone his media skills and become a household name outside of New York City. For those who aren't familiar with the program, the show highlights competing teams of celebrities (definition loosely defined) who are given tasks to complete. It's up to the host, who also serves as chief judge, along with two sidekicks to decide which team leader wins money for charity. High end show business at its most elementary level.
Celebrity Apprentice has set itself up to be a potential cesspool of conflicts without clear boundries for its former and current hosts. NBC fired Trump from the show in June after what they called his "derogatory statements regarding immigrants". They replaced him with a well known Austrian born immigrant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has his own brand of male macho. Behind the scenes wrangling during the campaign put Trump back to work as the Executive Producer, creating a substantial new revenue stream that Trump will collect while he is President of the United States. Forbes estimates that Trump as Exec Producer will make about 2 million dollars per episode this season. In addition to royalties. Corporate sponsorships of the program muddie the waters ever further. Donald Trump's continued involvement with Celebrity Apprentice sets up new layers of conflicts of interest unless Trump does what he doesn't seem inclined to do - stop pocketing money earned while on the payroll of a television network that has a substantial news division assigned to cover his presidency.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the body builder turned actor and businessman who parlayed it all to become the Republican Governor of California, appears primed to continue the mix of politics and reality television. In October he announced that he would not vote for Donald Trump for President. In his first Celebrity Apprentice show on January 2, 2017, Schwarzenegger made it clear to participant Jon Lovitz that calling him "Arnold", as millions of others do, in his new capacity as host will not be allowed. "In here it's Governor", he said while sitting behind the faux boardroom desk. It was slightly bizzare. We now have a second incarnation of the Celebrity Apprentice reality show with a host who wants to use his political title versus all others. The same show that helped make a man President.
Could we say that NBC is providing a vehicle to showcase another potential presidential candidate while enabling the continuation of a new norm? Arnold Schwarzenegger's bio on his official website reinforces some of that thinking:
Most notably, Schwarzenegger made California a world leader on renewable energy and combating climate change with the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, set a revolutionary political reform agenda, and became the first governor in decades to invest in rebuilding California’s critical infrastructure with his Strategic Growth Plan.
The current convergence of celebrity and politics has unleashed a new generation of probable. The lines between governing and business and celebrity no longer seem to be clearly drawn. When a reality show star wants to be called by his former title of Governor, but closes his show by saying "Hasta la vista baby", you really do have to wonder.