Celebrity Apprentice Returns

Today, the 8th installment of ‘The Apprentice’ makes its season premiere. It’s hard to remember when this show was last relevant. The answer is a long 5 years ago in 2004. At the time, the series came in to fill the ‘Must-See TV’ void on NBC taking advantage of the sweet 9PM timeslot highly targeted by advertisers. The concept was fresh, clever and starred a well-famed billionaire to add star power. The success of the first season led to video games, books preaching Trump propaganda, an SNL hosting appearance by the Donald himself and of course a catch-phrase we know all too well. The problem with the show is that it became over saturated with the increased popularity. A second season was rushed out later in the Fall season and it severely lacked the character and business focus of the first season. It become more about product placement and boardroom drama. What completely pushed the show over the edge in my opinion, was the introduction of the Martha Stewart spin-off in 2005 which did nothing but bring both shows down. The chart below shows the awful decline in ratings as the show lost 63% viewership by the 6th season dropping from a Top 10 show to 75th in primetime ratings:

The timing of the show also hurt its ratings as it came in during the tail-end of the reality-TV phase. While the genre is still popular today, it is nowhere near the 5 year craze 2000-2004 which introduced us to shows like ‘Survivor’, ‘Big Brother’, ‘Joe Millionaire’, and ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire’. I am actually somewhat surprised ‘Survivor’ has stayed on the air this long since 2000. The truth is, it took 9 years and 17 seasons for the show to drop 55% in viewership and even then has remained a Top 15 show for each of the previous runs. While I stopped watching after the 2nd season, it seems like the show found creative ways to keep the game play fresh and interesting. I’ve also never been a fan of running two seasons of the same show in the same TV year and I think this hurt ‘The Apprentice’ more so than ‘Survivor’. ‘American Idol’ has benefited from a one per year run since inception and has flourished phenomenally in ratings still averaging 25+ million in ratings entering its 8th season now.

This year’s Apprentice is the second of the celebrity variety and I use the term “celebrity” fairly loosely. I would place this year’s group at “D-List” at best. Some of the “names” this year include: Dennis Rodman, Clint Black, Joan Rivers, Brian McKnight and Tom Green. I would even go as far as saying that this is a slight downgrade from the previous celebrity version which included the likes of: Lennox Lewis, Gene Simmons, Jennie Finch, Stephen Baldwin and eventual winner, Piers Morgan. The previous season did enough however to improve on its ratings from with the increased star power and allowed NBC to extend the series to another season. The problem, having watched the previous celebrity version, is that it became less about the show and more about the characters. Instead of using clever business tactics to perform specific tasks, the celebs would use their acquaintances to assist in generating money. It basically came down to who had the bigger contact list. Simmons and Omarosa were obviously brought in to create fireworks and generate boardroom politics. That is unfortunately the direction I feel this new season is headed with Rodman and Khloe Kardashian in the mix.

While I have been watching the show since 2004, I feel like I have to let go at some point. The show needs to go back to its roots and focus on business tasks. Previous wingmen, Carolyn and George were very conscientious and offered acute criticism of the ongoing tasks, a concept lacking by the new henchmen, Ivana and Donald Jr. I also don’t think there will ever be another contestant that matches the entrepreneurial mindset and work ethic of Season 1 winner Bill Rancic. Personally, I think the new season is doomed for failure airing Sundays at 9PM. While it’s doubtful the show will ever regain its true form, NBC better hope to keep Brande Roderick on the show as long as possible to keep fans interested this year.

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