Dateline: Behind The Apprentice – Beyond the Boardroomby Betsy Wasser -- 04/15/04
The Apprentice has been a smash hit for NBC, and they’re celebrating the finale with a special edition of Dateline that takes us “Behind The Apprentice.” Host Stone Phillips promises us interviews, previously unaired audition tapes, and a chance to get to know some of our favorite candidates a little better.
We start with Ereka. In her audition, Ereka shows off her kickboxing (along with a sports bra and some tight pants – the girl has some nice abs). We’re reminded that in the early challenges, the women used sex to sell, but Ereka thinks that was fine. She says that it was a back to basics approach, and a way for them to use all of their resources. We get a good look at Ereka’s… resources in the photo shoot for FHM magazine. Ereka and some of the other women for the show are sporting black lace lingerie that doesn’t exactly make me think, “I want to hire her!”
Ereka’s audition tape also included a trip to her parents’ pizzeria. Ereka says that her parents are Italian immigrants and that she’s very proud of them. She attempts to toss some pizza dough, but it’s definitely not her strong suit!
The most upsetting time for her during the show was Omarosa’s accusing her of calling her the n-word. Ereka says, “If you’re going to make accusations like you did… I’m going to put up a fight.” The narrator of the segment reports that the producers have scoured all of the tapes from the show, and found no evidence of Ereka or anyone else using that word. I hope that settles that issue, but unfortunately I suspect it won’t.
In the end, Trump found Ereka frazzled and out of control, so he fired her. She says she’s gotten lots of job offers since the show aired, and is happy in her life.
Next up is Katrina. Katrina wants us to know that she has a goofy, silly side. In her audition tape, she rides a mechanical bull. She is in the top three percent of realtors nationwide and had a 4.0 grade point average in college. Katrina says that one thing viewers might not realize is that candidates had no access to TV, to the computer (other than for work-related tasks), newspapers, and so forth. As a result, they had nothing to do but talk to each other, so conflicts – like the one between her and Omarosa – had a tendency to blow up. She says that the intensity was very real. She is engaged to her high school sweetheart.
Amy and Nick are profiled together. Nick says that they’re just friends, but that Amy broke his heart. Their “showmance,” as Nick called it, only lasted a month, but the two of them are still flirting in the segment. For example, Nick says that he wants to be in politics, and Amy cracks up laughing at him. In Amy’s audition tape, she showed her sense of humor and athleticism, but Nick was all business. In fact, his tape consisted entirely of him closing a deal to sell copiers!
Hey, it’s Troy! Troy’s wife Crystal says that when Troy was a kid, he had Donald Trump posters in his room. From a young age, Troy supported his mother and his sister Doralynn, but Crystal says he never considered it a burden. Troy explains that his sister is profoundly deaf and developmentally delayed. The two of them have a conversation and Doralynn signs her name. It could not be more obvious that Troy absolutely adores her. Troy became fast friends with Kwame, and Kwame even loaned him suits because Troy didn’t have very many of his own. I totally love Kwame for that – what a great guy! But the one item of clothing that was 100% Troy was his famous black cowboy hat. In a cute interview, Troy and Doralynn explain that she got him the hat to remember her by. Troy has gotten a lot of offers to work as a motivational speaker (a job he’d be incredible at). He says that he never quit or lost hope that he’d make his dreams come true.
The next segment focuses on the man behind The Apprentice. No, not Donald Trump; executive producer Mark Burnett. Mark Burnett is 44 years old and has hit shows on three networks. He is the creative force behind Survivor, The Restaurant, Eco-Challenge, and, of course, The Apprentice. Burnett came to the United States after serving as a paratrooper for the U.K. in the Falkland Islands war. He grew up watching American TV and was eager to work in the field. He doesn’t like the term “reality TV,” preferring the term “unscripted drama.” I looked into it, and if we change the name of the site to “Unscripted Drama News Online,” everybody is going to need to buy a bigger computer monitor so it’ll fit.
Burnett is involved in all aspects of production, but one of the most important is casting. Over a quarter of a million people auditioned for the second season of The Apprentice. He says instinct is the key to finding the right people. Burnett says that if you get a bunch of type-A personalities together, you’re bound to have an interesting show, but that you can never predict which people will clash. He says that all of his shows are based in ritual – from the boardrooms to tribal councils – and that audiences find that appealing. He’s also proud that his shows are hits without gratuitous nudity (except for Richard Hatch, I guess), sex, or gross-outs. He’s also not a fan of relying on surprise twists, by which I think he means more along the lines of “He’s not really a millionaire!” more than “The Outcasts are back!”
Burnett’s next venture is a show called The Contender, which is about boxing and stars Sugar Ray Leonard and Sylvester Stallone, along with boxing hopefuls. In an interview, Stallone says that the reason the shows are a hit is the interesting human interactions.
Burnett is proud to have a show on NBC’s Thursday night, an acknowledgement that The Apprentice is a hit. He concludes by saying, “There’s nothing like biting off more than you can chew and chewing it anyway.”
No discussion of The Apprentice is complete without discussing what Stone Phillps calls the two most controversial candidates: Sam and Omarosa. Actually, I don’t think the two of them are especially controversial. People have been pretty unanimous in thinking that Sam was a bit wacky and that Omarosa… well, let’s just say there’s a reason she’s been inducted into the Reality TV Hall of Shame… twice.
We start with Sam. He cheerfully admits, “I am a little nuts. It’s a slice of life.” In his life outside of The Apprentice, Sam is a successful newsletter publisher. He says that, like Trump, he likes living the good life, and shows us around his apartment. His apartment is like a smaller, slightly less shiny version of Trump’s apartment. Sam is a trained auctioneer and is dedicated to his family. In his audition tape, Sam talked his way onto, and then commandeered a Washington, DC, Tourmobile bus. I would have loved to have seen the rest of that tape, because that’s hilarious.
Sam calls his time on the show “a train wreck.” He says that he was penalized for thinking outside the box and insists that he almost closed a sale for the $1,000 glass of lemonade. And the time he supposedly fell asleep on the floor? He says he was sick, hungry (the other guys ate all of the food), and exhausted. He also felt a tremendous amount of pressure being in front of his idol, Donald Trump. In an attempt to rein himself in, he carried a note in his pocket that said, “Shut up, Sam.” As for the laser beam death glare he shot at Trump when he was fired, he insists that he wasn’t angry; he was devastated.
Still, life has been good for Sam since the show ended. He appeared on The Tonight Show, did a very funny commercial for the Miss USA pageant with Trump, and even proposed to his girlfriend on the Today show. Sam’s future wife jokes that in the five years she and Sam have been together, she’s learned some “coping mechanisms.” At the close of his story, Sam says, “The game’s never over,” and says that he hopes one day to work with Donald Trump.
Then there’s Omarosa, simply described as “the villain.” Omarosa caused a lot of controversy on the show – some of her teammates found her arrogant and flat-out hated her. Omarosa says she didn’t care – she didn’t go on the show to make friends or to join “the sorority.” She wanted to win.
Omarosa says that there is a misconception about her that she grew up rich. I don’t know why anyone would think that, since she made it clear several times that she grew up in the projects of Youngstown, Ohio. Her father died when she was very young, and her brother was involved in gangs and is in jail now. But her mother encouraged her to succeed. In her audition tape, she proudly showed off her college degree. She is currently one credit shy of earning her PhD. Omarosa helped finance her education by participating in beauty pageants. She shows off her crown for being Mrs. District of Columbia. She has been married for four years.
Omarosa was the butt of jokes on Saturday Night Live, and NBC is kind enough to show a clip of Maya Rudolph playing Omarosa, getting hit on the head with progressively bigger pieces of drywall, and finally a bowling ball. Omarosa maintains that her injury was real, and that she went to the emergency room. She leaves out the detail that we learned in the clip show, which is that the doctors there found no serious injuries. As for her accusation that Ereka used a racist word to describe her, she stands by her story.
Omarosa says that her time on The Apprentice has helped her career. She gets recognized on the street, her web site has had half a million hits, and she’s been in talks to host a talk show and to write a book. She claims that she made great contributions to her team and yielded good results.
Of course, we have to talk about the final two candidates, one of whom will win the big prize: Kwame and Bill. Kwame has an impressive resume – he has an MBA from Harvard and works for the prestigious financial firm Goldman Sachs. In an interview, he says that he auditioned for the show because it's important to take risks. Ultimately, he doesn't want to be Donald Trump's assistant – he wants his own empire. He says that one thing he and Trump have in common is a love of beautiful women. Kwame separated from his wife because, as he candidly put it, his days of "skirt chasing" were not over. Kwame says that he's not as straitlaced as he seems to be on the show, and can actually be a lot of fun. He's ready for the final battle and is confident that win or lose, he'll make the best of this opportunity.
Bill considers himself a self-made man. He is an entrepreneur who turned the cigar business he ran out of his apartment into a successful company. He's very athletic and believes that his experience as a marathon runner has taught him the endurance needed to excel at this challenge. In his audition video, he predicted that he'd beat out the MBAs because they have textbook smarts, not the practical knowledge that he has. Very interesting, considering his final opponent. In the meantime, Bill is enjoying his fame. He gets hundreds of emails a day, including many from female admirers. He says that he hasn't found the right woman yet, so if the rumors that he's engaged to Jen Schefft of The Bachelor are true, they obviously haven't found their way to NBC yet. Bill says that the finish line is in sight, but regardless, he knows he can hold his head high, proud of how he performed.
In the final segment of the night, NBC financial reporter Ron Insana, who has the coolest name since Wolf Blitzer, assembles a panel of experts to predict which of the men will win. On the panel are Donny Deutsch of the Deutsch Agency (you may remember him from the second challenge), entrepreneur B. Smith, Isaac Mizrahi (who participated in the celebrity auction challenge), dotcom billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and TV host Carson Daly (who also participated in the celebrity auction challenge).
The panelists talk about Kwame first. B. says that he's not an entrepreneur like Bill and has a tendency to be too nice. Donny says that Kwame doesn't have any fire in him, but Isaac reminds us that he's cute. That said, Isaac met Kwame in the auction challenge and found him the most impressive of his teammates. He says that after the negotiation was over and the cameras were shut off, Kwame tied up all of the loose ends and finalized the details. That's actually quite impressive, since Jessie and Omarosa had the lead in that task – Kwame was obviously willing to do what had to be done to make sure the job was done right even if it wasn't the most showy task. Carson thinks that Kwame was smart in that he let some of the other competitors eliminate themselves. The group collectively gives Kwame a pass for choosing a bad location for the lemonade challenge. Mark says that if you make your mistakes early, they're easily forgiven.
But right now, the panel says, Kwame's final challenge to produce a Jessica Simpson concert seems to be on the brink of disaster. Everyone thinks Kwame has been far too laid-back in dealing with the problems Omarosa has caused. B. calls her a diva and thinks Kwame should deal with her more firmly. Carson thinks it's a test – no way is Jessica lost. After all, she's on the cover of magazines! She can't be hard to find.
The panelists admire Bill's no-nonsense approach, including occasionally being less than patient with his teammates. Mark thinks Bill is right to not let up, including the time he berated Ereka for taking a five-minute break in the apartment renovation challenge. The panelists do think, though, that Bill can be a bit of a maverick. He's used to working for himself, so he might not fit into a corporate environment as well as Kwame would.
Everyone agrees that the women's behavior in the first challenges and their use of their sexuality was over the top. Donny, who witnessed it firsthand, especially thinks so. Still, the panelists agree that the game's MVP is Amy.
Finally, the panelists discuss which man is best in a variety of criteria. Who has the best resume? All but Donny think Kwame does. Which man is best with clients? They are divided. Everyone does agree, though, that Kwame is the best at working with his coworkers, but sometimes can be too nice. Everyone but Isaac agrees that Bill is the best at making tough decisions.
In the end, the panelists predict which man will walk away with the top prize. Two choose Kwame, and three think it will be Bill. But of course, the final decision will be made by Donald Trump, and we'll learn it soon. The segment ends with Ron Insana doing a perfect imitation of taking the elevator down to the street, complete with wheeled suitcase and look of dejection. It's hilarious.
Well, after an hour of Apprentice extras, I am more than ready for tonight's finale. I'll see you here on Friday morning with all of the details.
Betsy is the Associate Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached with any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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