There was a time when washed up celebrities appearing on reality television was seen as the last stop before working at state fairs.

Watching the washed up group of celebs that are providing the content for the two hour “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice,” you wouldn’t be blamed if you couldn’t remember that long ago. In fact it was only 2003 when the big bang for washed up celebrity television started with a show called “The Surreal Life.”

“The Surreal Life” had a simple premise. Let’s have a group of D-Listers agree to live in a house “Real World”-style and see what happens.  The cast featured a who’s who of cautionary tales: MC Hammer, Corey Feldman, Emanuel Lewis, Vince Neil, Gabrielle Carteris, Jerri from Survivor, and playboy playmate Brande Roderick. While the show never reached critical mass, it helped to lay the foundation of future shows where washed up celebrities will swallow their ever-less-existent pride for our amusement.

Bringing things full circle a decade later, Roderick is an All Star member of “Celebrity Apprentice.” She hasn’t changed much since her time hang with Webster and a woman who knew Luke Perry. What has changed though is the television landscape and business model, and that means more happy days for the huddled masses of reality whores.

Why would NBC devote this much time to a show like “Celebrity Apprentice?”

Three words: The NFL offseason. It’s far too long. If NBC could have Sunday Night Football all year round, we wouldn’t have to worry about Donald Trump. Due to things like “safety” and “player’s unions” though, we will never get the year-long football we so richly deserve. Even worse, this leaves a large hole in NBC’s schedule during the spring.

What’s great about the “Apprentice” is it takes the place of four half-hour shows on Sunday, and costs NBC far less. Advertising revenues for SNF[ref]Like all live events[/ref], are way up so NBC can afford to put up 120 minutes of “Celebrity Apprentice” in the offseason. But wait, Ben . . . don’t we get enough content in our hour-long reality shows already? Of course we do, but the finances of renewing “Celebrity Apprentice” only work if the show takes up as much prime time real estate as possible. Last Sunday, NBC devoted four straight hours of primetime television to the show by airing the previous week’s episode from 7-9 pm.  That’s something you would see being used by a cable network to increase awareness of a show, not on network TV.

What’s with the rise of the Reality Star?

Fans of CBS reality shows should have noticed by now the new casting trend. All CBS reality shows now feature returning or established stars from previous seasons or shows. Last year’s “Amazing Race” featured a couple from “Big Brother,” and “Big Brother” featured the brother of a “Survivor” cast member. Have the casting people at CBS just turned lazy? Sadly, no.

They’re damned savvy. Casting known quantities ensures that the shows have less work to do in terms of introducing characters and narratives. If an established villain returns to a show, the audience already has a defined opinion on the player. Why wait to flesh out new contestants when you already have ready defined people dying to get back on TV? Why indeed.

It is very much the “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” business model to embrace the stars you have created earlier and use them to introduce new people to your audience. The “All Star Celebrity Apprentice” makes sense after you peel back some layers, but for all the worst reasons. Left with the decision of what to do with the offseason slot on Sundays, NBC made the correct choice economically speaking. And that choice includes Brande Roderick.

Thank you, math! And you’re welcome, bottom-of-the-barrel reality stars.