The Celebrity Apprentice, Thursday, May 10

Channel Nine, Wednesday and Thursday, 8pm

There is absolutely nothing subtle about The Celebrity Apprentice, a competition in which the players who exhibit the qualities necessary to succeed in business, as defined by finance-company boss Mark Bouris, are rewarded.

<i>Celebrity Apprentice</i>.
Celebrity Apprentice

Overkill is the order of the day. Everything is laid on with a trowel, pumped up to bursting point and served with extra cheese. And then, just in case we missed it, it's repeated.

Sidelong glances are edited to look like murderous glares. Minor disagreements about strategy are depicted as catastrophic eruptions. The attention lavished on sponsors is excessive and shameless. The deference with which Mr Bouris, aka "Sir", is addressed in the boardroom looks less like respect than obsequious brown-nosing, and the gravity with which boardroom activity is conducted suggests the participants are negotiating peace in the Middle East rather than playing a game.

However, none of this makes the shenanigans any less entertaining. When the kitsch trappings are stripped away, The Celebrity Apprentice, like Survivor, is an exercise in group dynamics and how to negotiate challenges. It's about how to balance ambition and individual initiative with being a team player; how to lead without stomping all over your teammates, and how to claim credit without belittling the contributions of others.

As it's also a reality TV show, it requires drama and conflict - and, in this second season, that's largely been provided by self-aggrandising conflict magnet Tania Zaetta and the preening powder puff that is "The Hoff" (for the uninitiated, that's beached former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff).

Predictably - as the most entertaining contestants are often the most annoying for the other players - both have exited the show. However, the season has provided some happy surprises, from the pluckiness of Patti Newton to the nice-guy canniness of Nathan Jolliffe. Ian "Dicko" Dickson has emerged as smart and strategic, and straight-talking Charlotte Dawson has proved lots of fun.

The Celebrity Apprentice works hard to create the impression that it's all about doing good works, that the players are competing less for personal glory than to raise money for their nominated charities. That means people who could be regarded as desperate attention-seekers, perhaps trying to reignite stalled careers via the exposure, can portray their participation as altruistic.

This week, two shows will whittle the remaining apprentices down to two finalists. The challenges involve devising an ad campaign for a luxury-car company and composing a song to raise money for charity.

Hmm, that second one does seem nicely tailored to suit "music guru" Dicko's skill set.