Re­al­ity check for BOSS the

Host Mark Bouris ad­mits the big egos of his celebrity ap­pren­tices put him to the test, writes Holly Byrnes

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

JUST what does Pauline Han­son bring to the ta­ble? It’s a loaded ques­tion that has been put to the Aus­tralian elec­torate over many years, with mixed re­sponse.

But in TV’s lat­est dragon lair – the set of Celebrity Ap­pren­tice Aus­tralia – it’s a puz­zle ‘‘ boss’’ Mark Bouris has to un­ravel.

Sit­ting at the very end of the board­room, lit­er­ally cor­nered, Han­son is on fa­mil­iar turf.

Fight­ing for sur­vival early in the Chan­nel 9 se­ries, de­fend­ing her­self against at­tacks from within her own team – and brac­ing for the barbs out­side it – the former politi­cian sparks into ac­tion.

Ac­cused of not pulling her weight dur­ing an art show chal­lenge, the One Na­tion founder bris­tles at the ‘‘ unAus­tralian’’ sug­ges­tion.

Ex­plain­ing the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind a per­sonal art piece she cre­ates – her time wrongly jailed for fraud – Han­son’s emo­tions threaten to be­tray her tough ex­te­rior.

It’s a speech that cap­ti­vates the room of Aus­tralian stars, from singer Deni Hines (who dubs Han­son as ‘‘ Mumma P’’) to model Jesinta Camp­bell and NRL great Wen­dell Sailor.

It’s a drag: Han­son and Camp­bell dur­ing a Manly Beach chal­lenge.

But none is taken more by her ‘‘ raw hon­esty’’ than Bouris, who is clearly sideswiped by the con­fes­sional.

He ad­mits Han­son is not who he ex­pected, a rev­e­la­tion and just the kind of sur­prise el­e­ment that at­tracted him to this for­mat of the show.

‘‘ She has an hon­esty which is quite stun­ning,’’ Bouris says. ‘‘ Ob­vi­ously her hon­esty has got her in trou­ble in the past, be­cause cer­tain peo­ple mis­in­ter­pret it. But she is not only hon­est in terms of telling peo­ple she might be racist, but, equally, the flip­side is she has an hon­esty that is quite en­dear­ing, too.

‘‘ To talk about her­self, what she can do and can’t do and what drives her . . . to me, that’s fas­ci­nat­ing.’’

For all the tricks of the re­al­ity TV busi­ness, hon­esty wins the day with Bouris – on the show and over the years build­ing his fi­nan­cial em­pire, Yel­low Brick Road. He tells us: ‘‘ I think that’s the only way you can oper­ate in busi­ness.’’

It’s with the same can­dour Bouris ad­mits the first se­ries of The Ap­pren­tice Aus­tralia didn’t work.

‘‘ It was a bad times­lot. We were on at 9.30pm and in 2009, it was also a dif­fer­ent pe­riod in Chan­nel 9’s life, too. They are a lot bet­ter po­si­tioned to­day. I orig­i­nally went to (pro­duc­ers) Fre­man­tle and said we should do a celebrity ver­sion next and they’ve been try­ing to sell that idea into Nine for a long, long time.’’

It’s this straight shoot­ing that has im­pressed net­work in­sid­ers not al­ways used to such forth­right tal­ent.

A pro­duc­tion source ex­plains how Bouris ap­proaches show meet­ings: ‘‘ Al­ways in con­trol, gets the an­swers he wants, then he’s out of there’’.

‘‘ It is still busi­ness for me,’’ Bouris says, un­apolo­get­i­cally.

The only dif­fer­ence is when the cam­eras roll, he says he’s not al­ways sure what’s go­ing to hap­pen next.

‘‘ I’m deal­ing with celebri­ties; it’s like herd­ing cats. They have strong views and can be frus­trat­ing. They are all very emo­tional, some hide it bet­ter than oth­ers, but it’s their rep­u­ta­tions on the line.’’

With huge egos on dis­play, it doesn’t take long for the emo­tions to heat up and the tears to flow, with Han­son and Warwick Cap­per of­ten at the cen­tre of the drama. Bouris says he pushed for the celebrity ver­sion in part be­cause he was a fan of the starstud­ded US se­ries led by Don­ald Trump.

Trump filmed a brief cameo while tour­ing here last month, leav­ing a last­ing, if not en­tirely pos­i­tive im­pres­sion.

‘‘ I re­ally don’t know what busi­ness he does other than put his name up on ho­tels,’’ Bouris says, adding, ‘‘ he’s not the same sort of busi­ness­man I am – (with him) it’s game on, all the time.’’

Jok­ing he has ‘‘ bet­ter hair’’ than the Don­ald, he ad­mires the ef­fort it takes Trump to main­tain the ‘‘ the same im­age, the same story, the same lan­guage, the same tone, the same phrases, ev­ery sin­gle time’’. ‘‘ He is bril­liant at that.’’ The ex­plo­sive mo­ments and re­vived rat­ings of the US celebrity se­ries in­spired Bouris.

‘‘ To the ex­tent Aus­tralian celebri­ties are equal to Amer­i­can celebri­ties, which is just not the case, we got a lot of the char­ac­ters off the US.

‘‘ I was hop­ing we’d get a Dionne Warwick, a Gary Busey (odd­ball ac­tor) and I thought we did that with Warwick Cap­per. Jose Canseco, a big base­baller; I hope we get that out of Wen­dell.’’

It was Dionne Warwick’s walk-out and Meat Loaf’s melt­down ear­lier this year that helped re-ig­nite in­ter­est in the Ap­pren­tice show, Bouris says.

‘‘ I was ab­so­lutely mor­ti­fied by the way Dionne went on.

‘‘ I got the sur­prise of my life. But these peo­ple are re­ally be­ing ex­posed.

‘‘ And that’s what makes it so in­ter­est­ing.’’

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