Friday, February 16, 2007

The Apprentice Finally Jumps The Shark

Wow, another show that was once prime water cooler material looks to be on the verge of biting the dust. The Mark Burnett/Donald Trump egofest, The Apprentice, is taking a ratings beating so far in this, its fifth season.
Now, scheduling could be a big part, as the Sunday night slot doesn’t seem well suited for a reality show like this one. I think it goes a bit beyond that though.

Trump seems to be going off the rails. First, he engages in the public feud with Rosie O’Donnell, as each celebrity ego was unable to simply let things go, engaging in a bitter battle via the media. It wouldn’t be crazy to imagine each one perpetuating the feud to pump up the hype for their respective shows.

Watching the current season, with all of the shakeups both he and Burnett implemented, seems to have thrown the show off balance. Gone are the viceroys we had come to enjoy: George, the loveable, crotchety old guy, and Carolyn, the icy businesswoman who saw through every wannabe who tried to feed corporate-speak bullshit to Trump and Co. when defending a lost task. These two seemed to keep teh show somewhat grounded, and more importantly kept Trump from being completely wacky. Gone was the New York scenery, as the show relocated to Los Angeles. Having the losing team each week sleep outside just strips any semblance of a business related experience out the window, and turns the show into some kind of second rate Survivor. Additionally, the tasks have become mundane to the point of being nothing more than a product placement as subtle as a hammer to the forehead.

Trump himself contradicts himself from week to week, sometimes within the same episode. He rails at one winning project manager turned viceroy (another lame “twist” introduced this season) for not being vocal enough in the boardroom. The next week, when another winning PM is in the chair, and knows what happened to the other guy, he calls her out for being a “hard ass” for simply doing what he apparently wanted.

The nadir might have been in the second episode. The winning team that week got the “reward” of visiting the Playboy mansion, and meeting Hugh Hefner. Forget the fact that the team consisted of six women, one gay man, and one straight guy. The sight of a gross octogenarian in a bathrobe, his three girlfriends, interacting with The Donald created a vortex of gross not seen since Playboy After Dark. The best part: Hef tried to impart his business acumen on the eager young professionals. Let’s see, Hef basically banked on the fact that young males would like to buy a magazine and see girl boobies. Genius! Pay attention kids, you might learn something.

It would not be at all surprising to see the show cancelled once this cycle ends, if not sooner. It seems to have run its course, and no amount of messing with the format can change that. Somehow, Trump will spin the failure as a positive event which he instigated, taking credit for pulling the plug while he was still on top or some such nonsense.

Of course, I’m still watching, but then again, I’m an idiot.
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