The Apprentice 7: A Preview – “He’s Ba-ack!!”by Brian Towers -- 12/18/2007
Just when you thought a boardroom was a place with closed doors, Donald Trump has opened those doors back up by bringing The Apprentice back from the abyss of cancelled reality TV shows.
It has a long way to come back. Ratings have tanked between Seasons 1 and 6, for a goodly number of reasons. The last season, especially, introduced numerous changes that the majority of fans found disappointing to various degrees. The most recent season changed the setting from New York, it eliminated popular Carolyn and minimalized likeable George, the losing team had to camp outside, then they invited winning project managers into the Boardroom and kept them as project managers until their team lost.
There were also many failures in the areas of execution and presentation in the sixth season. There was far too much emphasis on a silly showmance, the way tasks were accomplished was essentially ignored, some of the firings were highly inexplicable, the final task was by far the lamest ever, and Trump himself began to behave unprofessionally by swearing and over-reacting to minor offenses. A winner evolved who struggled for screen time from day one and never even led a project. Indeed, all the other finalists seemed better suited for the role of Groucho Marx’s Captain Spaulding than that of a captain of industry!
Toss in increasingly unsubtle product placements and the fact that despite the LA location there was a dearth of celebrity guests, and it’s easy to see that the show was a pale shadow of its former glorious self. To make things worse, the show aired on – gasp – Sunday night! Who wants to think about business before Monday even gets here?
But that’s enough lamenting over the sins of yore, let’s take a look at what’s ahead in Season 7.
Changes For Season 7:
Let’s start out by outlining the changes that will hopefully make this season work (including a little spoiler regarding the first episode’s task). After that, I’ll run through the list of celebrity competitors. Yes, I know you’re probably skipping ahead to see the list of names right now – and that’s okay, but remember to come back and read the middle part!
This version of the show is, by necessity, different from previous seasons. The most obvious difference is that the objective of the game is NOT to become Donald Trump’s apprentice! That makes one wonder why they kept the name of the show, but let’s not dwell on that one. The eventual winner will instead win a quarter of a million dollars for their favorite charity.
Charities will also be the benefactors of funds raised by weekly tasks. The NBC press release states that over a million dollars will be raised, so that’s a good thing. The charities will benefit from valuable free publicity as well.
The show has returned to its roots in two ways. First of all, episodes will again air on Thursday evenings. Secondly, the action has returned to New York City, where no one is going to be forced to camp out on the roof of Trump Tower or anywhere else for that matter. Product placements, however, will continue to be seen everywhere.
Boardroom assistance and task observation will again come from The Donald’s two famous offspring – Ivanka and Don Jr., aided on occasion by popular patriarch George Ross. A new twist is the addition of a “rotating seat” on Trump’s side of the Boardroom, to be filled by a series of yet-to-be-named folks NBC identifies as “famous business leaders and industry legends.” It only seems fair that in a celebrity edition of the show, celebrity advisors should also be on hand.
Some tasks will require the celebs to work long and hard hours – without the aid of their personal assistants. Other tasks will necessitate reaching out to their rich, powerful, and/or famous friends for assistance, or even to hit them up for money. But given the egos involved, the biggest obstacles to success will probably be – each other!
The next paragraph is the spoiler about the first episode. If you don’t want to know, skip ahead to the next section. Really, if you care about such things, this is the time to skip ahead!
Okay, you were warned. Here’s the scoop on the first episode. It may indeed be a test of egos as much as a sales event, but the celebs will become street vendors trying to sell hot dogs for several thousand dollars apiece.
This time, the contestants are not fawning and fresh-faced unknowns, armed with MBAs and impressive resumes, all jazzed over the prospect of working for one of Trump’s companies. I’m going to miss the fawning over The Donald almost as much as he will!
Nope, this time fourteen so-called celebrities got the call. I’m sure several of you will be disappointed to learn that neither Martha Stewart nor Rosie O’Donnell will be part of Season 7. Maybe next time?
Allegedly culled from over 125 applicants, the following attention junkies will be striving for a little more face time on our TVs. And here they are:
Trace Adkins is a country music star with several hit albums and singles. I’m not much into country music, so knowing no higher source, I quote from the NBC site: “… known for his imposing physical stature, world-class baritone and bedrock authenticity…” Thank God that was there, because I freely admit I was not going to come up with anything even close to that phrasing!
Carol Alt is one of the first supermodels. She has added minor acting credits to her resume in more recent times, and I remember her in Peter Benchley’s Amazon. Her current passion is the benefits of eating raw foods.
Stephen Baldwin is an actor probably most famous for being “a Baldwin brother.” His best role may have been in the 1995 film “The Usual Suspects,” but my fondest memories of him are when he showed his inability to grasp the blindingly obvious in two seasons of “Celebrity Mole.”
Nadia Comaneci is the Romanian gymnast from the 1976 Olympics (Montréal) who scored a ton of perfect tens that the scoreboards were unequipped to display. Currently, she can be seen on commercials for L'Oreal cosmetics.
Tiffany Fallon is Playboy's Playmate of the Year for 2005 and is married to one of the members of the popular band Rascal Flatts. These days she’s making some inroads as a talking head on the Spike and ESPN channels, among others.
Jennie Finch parlayed a successful career with the U. S. Olympic softball team to break through as the first female host of the popular TV program This Week In Baseball. Anyone familiar with (quotes mine) “pitching in an underhanded manner” surely has an unfair advantage on this show!
Nely Galán is best known to us from the reality TV show The Swan, where she was both the show’s creator and a life coach for contestants who were struggling with the process. Her current efforts include a new wellness-oriented show for NBC called “The New You,” coincidentally slated for NBC’s 2008 season. Nely is a boundless source of energy, and I don’t expect her to stand for sloth from her teammates.
Marilu Henner is the popular red-headed actress from Taxi who was nominated five times for a Golden Globe (no wins)… and twice for a Razzie (no wins here, either). Currently she is a prolific author in the lifestyle field, and claims to be hyperthymesiac.
Lennox Lewis is a three-time heavyweight-boxing champion. Although born in Britain, I remember his gold medal for Canada in the 1988 Olympics. He is only the third man to retire as heavyweight champion and not return to the ring, though he has remained active in promoting the sport.
Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth first crossed our screens in the inaugural season of this very show. She’s best remembered for getting laid low by falling plaster dust and being a volatile personality who does not work well with others. Since then she has been on many talk shows and the well-named Surreal Life. To her credit, she now works with disadvantaged youth… probably ones who don’t have access to the Season 1 DVDs. Expect Omarosa to be in the forefront of much of the action.
Piers Morgan is known to most Americans as the grumpy judge on NBC’s hit show America's Got Talent. That is not his first brush with TV, as IMDB shows 40-plus entries for him. He has also had some success as an author.
Tito Ortiz has overcome a tough early life to become a big name in the world of ultimate fighting, where he is known as “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy.” He’s also trying to break into action movies and push his clothing line. Probably no one will want to assign a task to Tito.
Vincent Pastore hit the big time in the role of “Big Pussy” on the Emmy-award winning show The Sopranos, but your kids might better know him from his voiceover work in “Shark Tale.” His most recent brush with fame is as a last-minute dropout from last season’s Dancing With The Stars.
Gene Simmons is best known for being a tongue-waggling icon in the seventies glam-band KISS. He has used his fame to develop numerous business ventures, including the production of movies, books, and music for both himself and for others. To the best of my knowledge, he is the only cast member who is also on a U.S. postage stamp! These days he can be seen on the reality show Gene Simmons Family Jewels, where his overt lifestyle befuddles us all.
So there you have it. Depending on your definition, there are some true celebrity contestants, and some, not so much. I didn’t see a lot of folks with MBAs or even minor business experience in their bios, which as the person committed to recapping the episodes, worries me a lot.
We’ll see if this “celebrity” format can possibly work. Personally, although I’m glad to see the L.A. rule changes abandoned, I’m not yet convinced “celebrity anything” has a place in reality TV.
The first episode airs on Thursday, January 3rd at 9:00 PM ET/PT. Join me here for a recap of all the action sprinkled with my own reactions and opinions. I’ll try to be as fair as I can, but you should expect a low breaking point. Do let me know what you think about it all at the eAddress below!
Brian lives in Toronto. He spent a couple of decades working in middle management at The Prudential, primarily hiding behind the coffee machines in generally unsuccessful attempts to avoid his pointy-haired bosses. He can be reached at email@example.com. He’d like to hear your opinions and promises to respond to all serious email.