Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson decided to enter Celebrity Apprentice after ending 2011 on a down note.
“I was feeling down in the dumps after last year. This was just a really good carefree way to start the year and put a spring back into my step,” he tells TV Tonight.
He joined the Nine series after ‘sacking himself’ as host of his own show Can of Worms, produced by Zapruders Other Films and his own production company Watercooler. A new host is expected to be announced soon.
It turned out to be a smart move. He’s now a finalist in tonight’s Celebrity Apprentice final and he’s managed to sell another undisclosed TV format.
“I’ve had a really good year. We’ve been quite productive on the Watercooler side we’re looking good for another show and we’re developing two others which I’ve got high hopes for,” he says.
“I’m not allowed to talk about it, but yes. I’m really happy we’ve got another production associated with another production company.
“It’s ‘shiny floor, light entertainment.’”
He wasn’t giving much more away, not even the network that has pocketed the new show.
Tonight he faces off against Nathan Jolliffe for the title of Celebrity Apprentice 2012. Having already filmed the finale he is sworn to secrecy on the outcome. The finale caps off a series in which he found the challenges tougher than the board room.
“Even my daughter doesn’t know and it’s driving her round the bend. She keeps trying to catch me off guard, showing me pictures of Nathan Jolliffe to see how my poker face is,” he says.
“I’ve sat in a lot of board rooms for real but the challenges I found really tough. Especially the money ones. I’ve never been the world’s greatest at begging for money.
“It was really hard cold calling people and asking them for money. I know it’s a charity but it’s still a little bit demeaning. But once I got over that it was fine.
“The board rooms I’ve sat in were real situations where the chairman was going to slash your budget in half and you’d have to sack half your department. So that was real peoples’ lives whereas this felt a little bit stylized and a bit of fun, really.”
With the 4:00am starts, and shooting days of 16 hours, Dicko likens the series to “some weird Reality TV version of Chinese torture.” But this is now his fifth stint in Reality TV, surely he knows what to expect.
“I’ve done Dancing with the Stars as a contestant and Celebrity Apprentice as a contestant. All of the other shows I’ve been on the other side of the fence,” he insists.
“I was a little more vulnerable this time but it was more fun because you’ve got less responsibility.
“A lot of people keep saying Reality TV is dead. I think bad Reality is dead, but good Reality like The Apprentice I’m sure will be around for a while.”
Celebrity Apprentice has raised $964,049.20 in just nine episodes, nearly double the figure in 2011. It attracted widespread media for the inclusion of David Hasselhoff. But The Hoff vanished almost as quickly as he arrived, which was news to the cast left working on the show.
“The Australian public are so across TV and what it means and how it works. I think everybody looked at that and thought, ‘The Hoff’s been paid for 3 eps and this is it! The money’s run out and he’s buggering off!’” he says cynically.
But facing off against team mate Nathan Jolliffe is bittersweet. Dickson grew close to him across the season, including winning last week’s challenge together.
“I loved young Nathan. He was a pleasure to work with and has some decency and integrity about him and a great work ethic. But I think Charlotte Dawson was probably my favourite because she’s an old hand at Reality TV and she knows how to play it.
“A lot of people would just get the shits and just go off at each other whereas she could just roll with the punches because she knew what was going on.
“Reality TV is like life with all the boring bits taken out. So she knows if I’m going to arc up at her and call her named she can give it back and we won’t end up hating each other over it.
“But other people took it a bit too seriously and didn’t realise the job they were there to do.”
Dawson was Dicko’s early tip to win the series, but she was fired by boss Mark Bouris last week.
“I thought she was a loss, actually. It would have been great to have had her all the way through,” he says.
“She’s taken on the big boys of media in legal battles and won. So she’s no slouch.”
Celebrity Apprentice was Dickson’s first series with Channel Nine. But despite the move being a risk for come celebrity brands, he spoke positively about working for the network.
“Nine were a lot more laid back than I thought they were going to be. They’re pretty relaxed, actually. You go into the studio at Channel Nine and it’s a very hokey, family atmosphere. It’s not a thrusting, cutting-edge, angular modern building. It just feels very family. It’s like going round to your old aunt and uncle’s place,” he laughs.
“They were perfectly lovely, Channel Nine. Mind you they haven’t asked me back to do any other work!”
Celebrity Apprentice wraps from 8pm tonight on Nine.