The post-Donald Trump era of NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” arrived Monday, and with it the debut of new host Arnold Schwarzenegger’s catchphrase for firing contestants in the climactic boardroom showdown segment.
SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading if you have not seen the “New Celebrity Apprentice” premiere.
NBC’s “Apprentice” franchise has taken on heightened significance in pop culture because it proved to be the vehicle that president-elect Trump used to establish himself as a household name, paving the way for his convention-busting political career.
Trump bowed out of hosting “Celebrity Apprentice” in early 2015 as he laid the groundwork for his presidential campaign. Trump defied all mainstream political projections to win the Republican nomination and ultimately defeat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8.
Trump remains a credited executive producer of Schwarzenegger’s “New Celebrity Apprentice,” a role that sparked much debate about whether it was appropriate for a soon-to-be sitting president.
Schwarzenegger, the Austrian bodybuilder who became a movie star and served as Republican governor of California from 2003 to 2010, was named the new host of the show in September 2015.
NBC made the most of the curiosity about what Schwarzenegger would say when eliminating contestants from the show. Trump’s delivery of the line “You’re fired” became a signature element of the show when it premiered as “The Apprentice” (with everyday people as contestants) in January 2004.
Schwarzenegger reportedly filmed as many as eight versions of the catchphrase, and the host maintained even he didn’t know which one would make the cut before Monday’s premiere.
The first to go on “The New Celebrity Apprentice” was YouTube personality Carrie Keagan, following a challenge for the two teams to develop a five-minute customer presentation for a line of makeup products from “Celebrity Apprentice” advisor Tyra Banks.
The show’s 16 celebrities were divided into teams along gender lines. Porsha Williams, of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta” fame, was selected project manager for the women. The male team, headed by Boy George, won the challenge. The contenders for elimination after the first hour of Sunday’s two-hour premiere were Williams, Keagan and former “Jersey Shore” star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi.
“You’re terminated,” Schwarzenegger intoned as he sent Keagan off to the helicopter. After she left, Schwarzenegger leaned back in his chair and lit a cigar. Schwarzenegger, of course, starred in the “Terminator” action-movie franchise.
In the second hour, when Carnie Wilson got the ax, Schwarzenegger delivered the news with “You’re terminated,” and then he added the famous line from 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”: “Hasta la vista, baby.”
Schwarzenegger’s back story as a self-made star and entrepreneur was highlighted in the opening of the show. In the first extended boardroom scene, he put contestant Jon Lovitz, a friend from showbiz circles, in his place by telling him “In here you call me Governor.”
Schwarzenegger’s right-hand aide on the show is his nephew, entertainment attorney Patrick M. Knapp Schwarzenegger, which was in keeping with the role first daughter Ivanka Trump played for her father on the previous incarnation of the show. At one point, Schwarzenegger spoke briefly in German to his nephew to make a critical comment about Williams while she tried to defend her team’s performance. Subtitles popped up to keep viewers in the know.
Schwarzenegger made no mention of Trump during the two-hour premiere. At one point he cajoled the contestants to speak up during boardroom scenes. While keeping quiet had helped people avoid elimination in the past, Schwarzenegger said, “that’s not the way I handle things.”