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The Apprentice, Episode 1: When Life Gives You Lemons…by Betsy Wasser -- 01/09/2004
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The first episode of The Apprentice starts with some breathtaking shots of New York City. In a voiceover, Donald Trump welcomes us to “my city.” With the amount of real estate the man holds, he’s not kidding. Trump says, “This island is the real jungle,” and that if you’re not careful, it will eat you alive. For anyone who might not know, Trump goes on to say that he is the largest real estate developer in New York City. Thirteen years ago, he was billions of dollars in debt, but he fought back using his “brain and negotiating skills.” In that time, he says that he has built Trump into a brand associated with quality and luxury.
Trump says that he’s looking for an apprentice to pass his business knowledge on to. Sixteen people with the best and brightest business minds in America are on their way to the city to compete for the chance to be that apprentice. The person ultimately chosen will get “a huge salary,” plus the opportunity to learn from Trump himself. For thirteen weeks, they’ll have “a unique job interview.” They’ll live together in a suite in Trump Tower. The aspirants will be divided into two groups to compete for “the suite or the street.”
We meet the candidates one by one as they arrive at Trump Tower. I won’t introduce them now because I already profiled them all in my preview article. Tammy stands out immediately because she says in an interview that she felt no desire to communicate with any of the other aspirants. The only person she’s interested in talking to, she says, is Donald Trump. The candidates stand silently in the lobby, luggage in tow, sizing one another up. I find it really weird that no one is talking to anyone. Sure, they’re not there to make friends, but shouldn’t they consider this a potential networking event? (Unless, of course, they aren’t allowed to talk to one another like on Mark Burnett’s “other” show, Survivor. In that case, never mind.) After standing quietly for a while, the candidates are ushered into Trump’s boardroom.
Donald Trump holds court at the center of the conference table. With him are his two deputies. He calls George his right hand man. Carolyn, he says, is a killer—“There are many men buried in her wake.” That remark struck me as a bit sexist. Would he have said that a man had many men buried in his wake? Or that a man had many women buried in his wake? Is Carolyn’s success only measured by those accomplishments which succeed those of men? Anyway, George and Carolyn will serve as Trump’s eyes and ears and will report back to him on the success or failure of the aspirants.
Trump goes on to explain the rules. This is not a game; it’s a job interview. The candidates will be suffering “thirteen weeks of hell.” I will be too if this show isn’t good, but I have a feeling that’s not going to be a problem. Trump says that all of the aspirants come from different walks of life. What makes a person successful? Is it attending a top business school, or are street smarts more important? Do women have more trouble succeeding in the business world (hmm, my sexist alarm bells are ringing again)? In this case, we’ll find out if women are more successful in the business world, because that’s how the teams will be divided—women vs. men. Every week, the teams will compete against each other in various tasks. They’ll be led by a project manager. That project manager will be responsible, at least in part, for the success or failure of the team in each mission. The losing team will report to the boardroom every week, where they’ll lose a member. The ultimate winner will be president of one of Trump’s companies for one year. With that, they are adjourned.
In an interview, Sam says that sitting across from Donald Trump in a boardroom isn’t enough for him. He wants to gain closer access—to have dinner with him or to go to a bar with him and his girlfriend. Sam seems a little obsessed.
The candidates head for their suite in Trump Tower. The suite is very cool, complete with a gym, meeting rooms, and two tables with champagne and caviar. It is fabulous, better than any Real World house ever. Troy grins and says, “My momma’s going to be proud!” The candidates mill around talking about the division of teams, and everyone is excited that it’s been divided by sexes. Tammy wonders why any of the women are even bothering to talk to the men, the enemy. Bowie says that if any of the women cross him, he’ll take revenge tenfold.
Sam and David talk, and Sam learns that David holds both an MD and an MBA. David explains that after he finished medical school, he wanted to have options other than just to treat patients, so he decided to go to business school as well. As he explains that he now works as a venture capitalist, Sam says that he can’t relate to David at all. How can he stand to spend so much time in the classroom instead of going out and working? Well, Sam, maybe David felt he needed this kind of education to do the kind of job that he does.
Meanwhile, Omarosa has found an envelope of instructions. She quickly herds the women together to review it. In an interview, she says that organizing and motivating people are her best skills. The letter, which the men have also discovered, directs each team to enjoy the champagne and caviar and to come up with a name for their companies.
This part of the show was especially interesting to me, because I work for a marketing company that specializes in brand identity. We name companies all the time, and it can be a very challenging process. I was very intrigued to see how the teams would go about naming their companies. Omarosa says that the women had a three hour ordeal to come up with a name. They agree that they want their name to convey “power, unity, and class.” The men throw out the name BMA, short for Business Men Associated. Wow, that’s a terribly boring name, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the name Omarosa suggests: Donald’s Darlings. How on earth could a group of successful women expect to be taken seriously with name like that? Happily, it is quickly discarded.1 2 3 4 Next-->
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