The Apprentice: Season One
Millions have come to this country in search of the American Dream, recreating your life to include wealth and power. With the advent of ‘reality’ television it was only natural for one to offer this dream as the ultimate prize, NBC in partnership with New York City’s largest real estate developer, Donald Trump join together to create the Apprentice. The premise is simple, take sixteen people from various walks of life, different educational and social backgrounds and let them compete for a one year contract as president of one of Trump’s numerous corporations. The format is now standard reality faire very similar to the infamous Survivor with tasks and the ultimate vote off. This is not unexpected since Mark Burnett is responsible for both. The response for this offer was staggering, over 215,000 entered with 16 being hand picked by The Donald to engage in this televised, extended job interview. The contestants represented an interesting cross section of the business world. There is Tammy, holder of a BA in economics with a job in the prestigious Merrill Lynch's Private Client Group. Bill created the famous Cigars of the World Company and web site, cashing in on the high end appeal of cigar bars. Jessie is a farm girl growing up on a 265 acre farm in Wisconsin. At 17 she started a chiropractic marketing and management company. Also included is Omarosa, a PhD candidate and former staff member of the Clinton administration.
Initially, the 16 are divided into two teams called corporations. At the start the men where pitted against the women to take on their first assignment, sell lemonade on unforgiving streets of New York City. The men started out with more of a business plan while the women where in a shamble of disarray. Unfortunately, the men choose the Fulton Fish market to sell their wares, considering the smell of the place, not the best idea. The women on the other hand offered kisses and phone numbers as they cajoled and flirted they way to sales. In the end the men doubled the $250 seed money while the ladies had made over $1,200. Yes, even in this micro business environment sex sells.
What was interesting in this first episode was how Trump decided who would be the first to hear those now famous words. ‘You’re fired.’ The women won so they where treated to a lunch at Trump’s gold plated apartment in Trump Towers while the men where herded into the board room to face the Donald. He questioned each of the men as to why they failed. Although they planed to go in united it was only a matter of minutes before blame was swooping around the boardroom. While Trump states that the decision is his to make based on his own judgment he depends heavily on George Ross, Trump's Executive Vice President and Senior Counsel and one of his Chief Operating Officers, Carolyn Kepcher. Consistent with a man of Trumps position he depends on them being out in the field with the contestants for feedback. Trump also did not fire the man that almost everyone blamed for the failure, he chose David, one that admitted his leadership would not have made a difference. Trump requires confidence and can almost smell indecision.
I didn’t think I would enjoy this show at all. After seeing the first episode I was hooked on how in it’s own strange way, it did reflect the qualities required to be a successful business leader. The tasks span a wide range of typical business functions in an imaginative and creative way. One task was to interview various artists and determine which would be a commercial success. This highlights the ability to spot potential. Another week had the teams competing to devise and promote an advertising campaign. This required not only coming up with an imaginative ideas but be able to sell those idea to the company. Each of these tasks is designed to reveal some aspect of business acumen. While in the format of a game there is something for the budding young business person to learn with each episode.
The backdrop for this series is the city in which I have lived all my life, New York. The Apprentice gives a wonderful view of this hectic and exciting city. Trump states several times that this is THE city to make it in and he is correct. Since many of the contestants come from much smaller, easier paced environments they had to face the extra challenge of the pace of this metropolis.
Almost everyone has an opinion of Donald Trump, usually either admiration or hatred. He seems to like it that way. His over the top life style is presented in a mater of fact way, he earned is gold bathroom and the priceless art on his walls. He dangles this wealth in front of the contestants and you can see them salivate at the prospect of gaining this lifestyle for themselves. Typical of these reality shows the contestants form alliances, pat each other on the back while plotting the demise of their teammates. Naturally, one has to stand out as the villain and here we get Omarosa.
Omarosa accused one of her teammates of using the dreaded ‘N’ word to her. This became a bit of a controversy and media event at the time. It even spilt over to the morning talk show, The View. Omarosa appears at ease with lying, something that Trump cannot abide. When it comes to her turn for the phrase, ‘You’re Fired’, she comes across as resentful and angry, more so than any other discarded contestant. Its moments like this that makes this series over the top and ultimately a guilty pleasure to watch.
In all this was much better than I had thought. I admit, I didn’t watch it when it was first shown but I was hooked after the first episode. There is something akin to rubber necking a traffic accident here. We may not want to see it but we can’t turn away.
The DVD is very well done with plenty of extras to extend the series. You get outtakes, some audition footage and the sage advice of Donald Trump. For reality television buffs this is a must have.