Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Although created by Mark Burnett of Survivor fame, the extremely popular reality series The Apprentice bore the unmistakable signature and imprimatur of its host, billionaire real-estate mogul Donald Trump. Each of the series' 13-episode program cycles found Trump presiding over 16 to 18 young, budding business executives, who would function as his temporary apprentices. The players were divided into two teams, each coming up with catchy corporate names like "Versacom," "Protégé," "Mosaic," and "Apex." The Donald and his corps of faithful subordinates -- notably Carolyn Kepcher and George Ross -- would assign the teams a variety of moneymaking projects, from developing and marketing a new product to establishing and managing a start-up business. A different player from each team would be the project manager each week, and would often behave in as dictatorial and ruthless a manner as possible to get results (in other words, the managers often acted like "Mini-Trumps"). At the end of every episode, the contestants would be gathered into a dimly lit boardroom, whereupon Trump would cold-bloodedly assess their successes and failures -- and then dismiss the week's least efficient contestant from the losing team with a terse "You're fired!" (supplanting Who Wants to Be a Millionaire's "Is that your final answer?" as TV's most quoted catchphrase). "You're fired!" gained such widespread popularity that Trump seriously considered copyrighting the phrase so that no one else could use it! At the end of the season, the one person who had curried the lion's share of Trump's favor would be given a 250,000-dollar-per-year job within the vast Trump Organization. Not surprisingly, many viewers tuned into The Apprentice not to see who would win, but to wallow in the humiliations of those who failed. Backbiting, backstabbing, and nervous breakdowns became the order of the day, with the least popular of the contestants -- notably the first season's infamous Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth -- often becoming the biggest "instant" celebrities. For those not interested in that sort of thing, the series was also a star-watchers' paradise, with guest appearances by dozens of Trump's high-profile friends and business associates. Making its NBC debut on January 8, 2004, The Apprentice ran anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes per episode. Even while new episodes were produced, the series was rebroadcast on NBC's sister cable service CNBC.
ambition, apprentice, assignment, business, competition, corporate-ladder, dreams-of-success, interview