The Apprentice Will Return… With Celebritiesby Betsy Wasser -- 07/17/2007
Not long ago, I reported that The Apprentice would not be returning to NBC. Since then, the network has changed its mind, with The Apprentice premiering mid-season. But the show won’t be back exactly as it had been. Instead of having a parade of young people with impressive resumes duking it out for a chance to work for Donald Trump, the candidates will all be celebrities. Instead of working for Donald Trump at the end, the winner will have a cash prize to donate to charity.
The cast of the show has not been announced, but one celebrity’s name has come up: None other than Donald Trump’s rival, Rosie O’Donnell. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the two had a very public feud a while back. Rosie criticized Trump’s handling of a scandal with Miss USA (Trump owns the pageant), saying that the many-times divorced mogul is in no position to judge anyone’s morality. Trump fired back with some nasty comments about Rosie’s weight and some threats to steal her partner, Kelly, from her. Personally, I felt like both of them were loud-mouthed jackasses, so I declared that fight a tie.
But that kind of public argument might certainly capture the audience’s attention. In fact, NBC executive Ben Silverman has stated, “It would be great to have Rosie on The Apprentice. Donald personally told me to extend an invitation to her.” And in PEOPLE magazine, Trump himself promised, “"If Rosie would like to do it, she would be treated very fairly."
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Rosie is interested. Rosie’s rep, Cindi Berger told PEOPLE, "It will not happen in this lifetime or beyond.”
Will a new celebrity edition of The Apprentice revive the flagging show? When The Apprentice debuted in 2004, it scored an average of nearly 21 million viewers and was the top-rated new show of the year. But by the time the most recent season, set in Los Angeles, completed, the audience had plummeted by nearly two-thirds. I think that the falling ratings were because the concept of the show was getting stale. Challenges felt like retreads of those we’d seen before, or were so driven by the sponsors that they were no longer interesting. In addition, Trump’s reasons for firing candidates seemed completely erratic. Having a cast of celebrities would definitely create a change.
However, I don’t think the change will be a positive one. For one thing, “celebrity” based reality shows don’t exactly bring out the A-list. I don’t think we’re going to see Tom Hanks fighting with Madonna in the Boardroom.
More importantly, replacing the regular candidates with celebrities will take away the elements that originally made the show successful. I liked watching The Apprentice to see smart business people in challenging situations. If the show is cast not with MBAs and successful salespeople, but rather former child actors and 1980s sitcom stars, we’re not going to learn anything about business.
Also, a recurring theme of the show, the motivation behind the effort that the candidates made, was a burning urge to work for Donald Trump. Candidates would talk enthusiastically in the Boardroom about how working for the Trump organization was a long-standing dream of theirs. They took the opportunity in front of them very seriously, and that passion and motivation made the show exciting. With celebrities competing to donate money to charity, the gravity of the situation just won’t seem as strong. “Please don’t fire me, Mr. Trump, because I really want you to give to the Humane Society” just doesn’t pack the same emotional punch.
The many twists that The Apprentice took in its last season – setting it in L.A., having the winning project manager stay in charge and advise Trump in the Boardroom, and making the losing team sleep in tents – killed the show. This latest incarnation is nothing more than an attempt to raise the dead. I can’t imagine that it will work.
Betsy Wasser is the Associate Editor of Reality News Online. Unless the celebrities featured on the new show include shirtless George Clooney and Ewan McGreggor, she’s not interested. Betsy can be reached with your comments at Betsywasser@Gmail.com.