Recently, a friend of mine gave me a bit of a ribbing for watching trash on the tele, or in my case, the laptop. I didn’t argue with him about our obvious difference of opinion on how I spend my time, but it did give me pause to reconsider why I like “Celebrity Apprentice”. After all, Mark Burnett’s reality TV has never been a fave of mine, and Donald Trump is such a buffoon, with the manners of a goat.
Initially, I watched it because a gal I knew from my layover in Nashville was one of the contestants. Sweet, quiet, and elegant Niki Taylor so outclassed Trump and his boardroom antics that I found it hard to suffer through the first show. But then, I adjusted my perspective and found myself cheering for all of the contestants who are there on their own time, battling it out for their charity of choice- most of which are near the celebrities’ hearts on account of personal experience. Brett Michaels, for example, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child, made it to the finals, nearly dying from a brain hemorrhage, only to win over $250,000 from Snapple for The Diabetes Association. Good on him!
There is, of course, the melodrama of such characters as Gary Busey whose quotes are poetic and strangely insightful. I mean, who doesn’t love a guy who claims that “My dark side, my shadow, my lower companion is now in the back room blowing up balloons for kids’ parties,”? And some Housewives lady from Jersey turned over a table…I didn’t quite understand what that was about, but people cheered. Millions of dollars are raised through voluntary donations from people across the board, whether contributing five bucks for a slice of pie or hundreds of thousands. What excites me is that it is all voluntary. People are generous and compassionate.
Drawing from a pool of successful and creative talents, the contestants do some amazing projects. It is impressive to me to see how these celebrities, who have honed their crafts, can pull magic out of their hat to seamlessly problem-solve despite financial and time constraints. (Brett Michaels using a room service cart and some doo dads to build a camera dolly for a shot was very cool.) And speaking of pulling magic out of a hat, my favorite contestant has been Penn Jillette.
Penn competed a couple of seasons ago and was criticized by many for his seemingly arrogant and gruff manner, especially from finalist Clay Akin, whose delicate sensibilities were disrupted by Penn’s overbearing persona. He is back as a finalist against Trace Adkins this season, and though he is the same Penn, it is quite obvious that he adjusted his behavior, toning down his demeanor, in order to better get along with others. He even admitted to as much when asked by Trump if he’d done anything differently this season.
Penn is about dignity and that is demonstrated in his choice for charity- Opportunity Village. Started by Elvis Presley and Wayne Newton, it is an organization that trains people to do the jobs we hate to do, but which they love to do. His passion for it really shined as he took a moment to educate the fired contestants, who had been brought back to help him with his final project, about who started it and why. It pulled at the heartstrings to see this dispassionate, giant-of-a-man succumb to tears, wiping them away with a hanky as he shared his affection for the mentally challenged.
His commitment to self-control and self-government is further exemplified in the manner in which he speaks to and about others. Teamed up with Lisa Rinna until she was fired, the two of them were exemplary in how they refused to be reduced to catty name-calling or the blame-game with the other contestants. He even spoke up on her behalf when doing so may have caused him to be fired. Further, in a video podcast posted on Big Think, he claims that “One of the joys of [his] life is getting along with people [he] shouldn’t get along with.” That is demonstrated in how he conducts himself and is a testament to his commitment to self-control as the standard for human action.
I applaud Penn and I hope that he wins the game as he as so obviously has won the game of life. I am a devout Christian and Penn is a devout Atheist. And yet we both believe that restraining self is chief among the attributes we must constantly strive for as humans. The fruit of his life is love, charity, long-suffering, self-control, compassion, gentleness and perseverance from what I can see. From my perspective, that makes him a godly man. I wonder what he would say about that! And given that he opts for educating and building-up, rather than merely entitling as a means for enabling those with disabilities, he qualifies as a member of B.I.T.C.H.E.S!!!!