After a season of boardroom drama, name calling and fundraising, the second season of “Celebrity Apprentice” came to a close on Sunday with a three-hour finale. The 16 stars had been whittled down to comedienne Joan Rivers and professional poker player Annie Duke, who each spent the first two hours of the finale preparing and hosting a silent auction on behalf of their selected charities, while the final hour consisted of the series’ signature “boardroom” scenes where both women were evaluated by show host and entrepreneur Donald Trump.
In the weeks leading up the finale Duke and Rivers had a tenuous relationship to say the least. Rivers flung a series of insults at Duke, including calling her a “pit viper”, comparing her to Adolf Hitler, and repeatedly referring to her as a Nazi. She also made jabs at the poker community, claiming they “win money with blood on it” and that “none of them have last names.” While Duke refrained from sparring with Rivers in front of Trump, she spoke about her distaste for Joan in several of her other on-camera interviews, at one point saying Rivers should “just die.”
The final task required the women to work in tandem with sponsors Kodak and Cirque de Soleil to put on a silent auction. They each drafted three previously fired contestants to assist them in the task. Rivers selected singer Clint Black, football star Herschel Walker and her daughter Melissa while Duke opted for Playboy playmate Brande Roderick, Dennis Rodman and comedian Tom Green. They were judged in five categories: money raised, Kodak product integration, charity integration, celebrity attendance and overall guest experience.
Both events were considered to be huge successes and raised a ton of money for Rivers’ selected charity God’s Love We Deliver, a group that delivers meals to AIDS patients; and Duke’s charity of choice, Refugees International, a group that provides relief to individuals in distressed areas like Iraq and Darfur.
Heading into the finale, many people believed Duke was the favorite to win because of her impressive fundraising and her 2-0 record as Project Manager. Additionally, Rivers had thrown what could be described as a tantrum following her daughter’s firing and briefly quit the show. In the boardroom it was revealed that Duke raised an impressive $466,000 (including a $100,000 donation from her brother Howard Lederer) compared to $151,000 raised by Rivers. Trump and his panel also agreed Duke did a better job branding her charity, but that Rivers held the advantage when it came to celebrity attendance, Kodak integration and guest experience.
In the live results portion of the finale, Trump decided that since Rivers won the most criteria she was the overall winner and he picked her as his new Apprentice. An additional $250,000 will be given to her charity in honor of Rivers’ victory. The poker world was quick to speak out in support of Duke after her loss. Daniel Negreanu and Doyle Brunson both Tweeted about the show while Lee Watkinson suggested the show was rigged in a blog he posted on Monday. Within the blog, he mentioned that Rivers had already signed a deal with Mark Burnett Productions, the company that makes “The Apprentice”, to do her own reality show.
After a solid performance for the struggling NBC network, “Celebrity Apprentice” has been renewed for a third season, the ninth overall for “The Apprentice” franchise. According to Nielsen ratings, Sunday’s finale performed reasonably well from 8pm-10pm and managed to finish first in the 10pm-11pm time slot, besting the season finales of “The Unit” on CBS and the popular “Brothers and Sisters” on ABC.

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