19 October 2003

Why didn't anybody tell me about this reality series?
Two weeks after their initial encounter at Wollman Rink, [reality TV producer] Mr. Burnett called Mr. Trump and pitched "The Apprentice,'' a reality TV show set in the business world. Sixteen contestants would live together in a video-monitored space in an undisclosed location (Mr. Burnett is notoriously guarded about his productions; he forbids people to reveal any details until the shows air). But instead of manipulating each other in the Amazon, they would backstab each other in New York.

Every week the show's host would assign various business tasks: contestants might be told to run a hot dog stand, say, or to open a store in a crime-filled neighborhood. Someone would be fired during each show; at the end, the winner would get a six-figure salary and a one-year position as a president or co-president of a division of the Trump Organization, of which Mr. Trump is president and chairman. The host of the show would be the original Joe Millionaire, Mr. Trump himself.

"This is Donald Trump giving back," Mr. Burnett said. "What makes the world a safe place right now? I think it's American dollars, which come from taxes, which come because of Donald Trump. All these buildings. How many carpenters, steelworkers, construction guys, cleaners, bellboys and maids are working through the Trump entrepreneurial vision? And what Donald Trump is doing and what 'The Apprentice' is about is to show Americans that you have to be an entrepreneur."

MR. Trump said that when he was considering whether to do the show, he was swayed by the educational factor, and by the idea that it would be as brutal and real as any business transaction. Applicants came out in droves: 215,000 people in 13 cities auditioned for 16 slots. The show began shooting in September and is scheduled to air on NBC in early January. Isaac Mizrahi, Regis Philbin, George Steinbrenner, and the Fab Five - the men from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" - have all made cameo appearances.

Not that I'd last five minutes on a show like that, but it would have been fun to apply. Haiwen probably would have done better, though.

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