Donald Trump Tells The Apprentice: “I Quit!”by Betsy Wasser -- 05/22/2007
The most recent season of The Apprentice was full of new twists that attempted to make the six season old show fresh again. Instead of working in New York, the candidates were headquartered in Los Angeles. Gone were Carolyn and George, Trump’s previous viceroys. Instead, Trump’s advisors were the winning project manager and a second person, usually his daughter Ivanka. The winning project manager also continued to lead the team until he or she lost. The losing team had to sleep in tents outside the mansion. We didn’t see a final two candidates running large events, but rather watched two teams of four competing against each other in a final task that very closely mirrored a previous task.
The result was disappointing. Viewers felt that there was far too much focus on the “have and have nots” twist. The “project manager until you lose” twist made it so that not only did we not get to know many of the candidates, but worse, that Stefani, though she was a capable, smart, and qualified candidate, won without having led her team a single time.
The many disappointments that came from the changes in the show resulted in dismal ratings. The show was a monster hit when it debuted in 2004, pulling in an average of nearly 21 million viewers. It was the top-rated new show of the year. But by the time Season 6 completed, the audience had plummeted by nearly two-thirds.
When NBC announced its fall line-up, The Apprentice wasn’t on the list. That alone didn’t necessarily spell the end of The Apprentice. After all, the Fox network doesn’t air their smash hit American Idol in the fall, either. NBC could have opted to show The Apprentice in the spring.
But a recent statement from Donald Trump put that idea to rest. Trump announced that he was "moving on from 'The Apprentice' to a major new TV venture." There was no word as to what that new venture might be.
It is possible that NBC could continue with the Apprentice concept, but with a different tycoon at the helm. However, that possibility seems unlikely to me. There aren’t very many CEO’s who have the brand-recognition that Donald Trump does. Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, and Martha Stewart all come to mind, but all three of them have had failed reality shows already – including an Apprentice spinoff from Martha Stewart. The only other potential stars I can think of are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. It seems unlikely that either of them would choose to be on a reality show, nor that NBC would take the risk again after the Stewart version failed. I suspect we have seen the end ofThe Apprentice.
Frankly, I’m fine with that. I feel like the show has run its course. Although I’ve been covering the show for six seasons, I told RNO Editor David Bloomberg that if the show came back, I was going to need to take at least one season off from recapping. I was burned out and just couldn’t find myself excited about the show any more. David, it turns out, felt much the same way. In his article about the final episode of the show, David wrote that the new twists in the show made it possible for someone to win the show without ever having served as a leader. “In the end,” David wrote, “Trump picked a new Apprentice who flew so low under the radar that viewers probably don’t feel they know much about her at all.” To make matters worse, Trump’s reasons for firing candidates seemed more and more capricious. David wrote, “While there were generally legitimate reasons for the firings, as discussed in each of my columns, there were definitely times when I disagreed. The phrase ‘white trash’ comes to mind, for example.”
In the first few seasons, The Apprentice was about very talented businessmen and women vying for a job that was important to them. They used their business acumen, leadership, and common sense to stand out from the crowd, completing tasks that were truly interesting and challenging. The best candidates worked hard, took risks, were creative, and taught viewers a little something about business along the way.
But by the time we got to the sixth season, much of what was good about the show was out the window. The tasks were basically designed to shoehorn in sponsors, so instead of watching smart people trying to set the best pricing structure or marketing campaign, we basically watched long commercials for air freshener. The candidates seemed to be cast more for their photogenic qualities than their business sense. And Trump himself morphed into a ridiculous cartoon, barking at candidates, swearing, and generally looking the fool.
In the end, it seems evident that the main reason that Donald Trump quit making the show was to avoid hearing his own dreaded catchphrase of “You’re fired.”
Betsy Wasser is the Associate Editor of Reality News Online. She can be reached with feedback at Betsywasser@Gmail.com.