The Apprentice was created by British-born American television producer Mark Burnett. Billed as "The Ultimate Job Interview", the show features sixteen to eighteen business people who compete over the course of a season, with usually one contestant eliminated per episode. Contestants are split into two "corporations" (teams), with one member from each volunteering as a project manager on each new task. The corporations complete business-related tasks such as selling products, raising money for charity, or creating an advertising campaign, with one corporation selected as the winner based on objective measures and subjective opinions of the host and his advisors who monitor the teams' performance on tasks. The losing corporation attends a boardroom meeting with the show's host and their advisors to break down why they lost and determine who contributed the least to the team. Episodes ended with the host eliminating the poorest contributor from the competition, with the words "You're fired!"
Seven of the show's seasons featured aspiring, but otherwise unknown, businesspersons who would vie for the show's prize, a one-year $250,000 starting contract to run one of Donald Trump's companies. There have also been seven seasons of The Celebrity Apprentice since 2008, In this format, several celebrities would participate to win money for their chosen charities, with the final prize being a large donation to the celebrity's charity and the title of "Apprentice". A reboot of this format, The New Celebrity Apprentice, aired in January 2017. The U.S. series originated a franchise of international television shows collectively known as The Apprentice, which has had over 20 local versions.
Real estate tycoon and now President Donald Trump was the show's host for the first fourteen seasons. After Trump declared that he would run for President, it was announced the fifteenth season would be hosted by actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which debuted in January 2017. Lifestyle mogul Martha Stewart hosted the one-season spin-off The Apprentice: Martha Stewart in 2005.
The Apprentice is a game show featuring season-long competitions. Each season begins with a new group of contestants vying to earn a place in one of the organizations run by the host. The contestants (who are referred to as "candidates") have come from business backgrounds in various enterprises, the backgrounds including real estate, accounting, restaurant management, management consulting, sales and marketing.
During the show, the contestants live in a communal dwelling, a "penthouse suite", in New York City (save for Season 6 which took place in Los Angeles). The candidates are divided into two teams, treated as "corporations" within the show. These corporations select a name they are subsequently referred to through the rest of the show. Each week, the teams are assigned a task and required to select one of their members to lead the team as "project manager", who is to take responsibility for organizing the team and making executive decisions. Tasks are generally business oriented and tend to highlight one of several business skills. Tasks most commonly revolve around sales (selling the most items or earning the most money) and marketing (producing a specific marketing material or campaign that is judged by a company's executives). During the tasks, the teams are usually visited by one of the host's "advisors" for that week. Tasks typically lasted for one or two days. After the completion of the task, the teams meet with the host and his two advisers in "the boardroom".
Boardroom meetings generally proceed in three stages. In the preliminary stage, all of the remaining candidates on both teams gather in the boardroom to be briefed on the task by the host and his advisors. Team members are asked about how the task went and whether there were any strong or weak players. Teams are sometimes asked to comment on materials or products produced by the opposing team. At the end of this stage, the host or his advisors reveal the results of the task and announce which team was the winner. The winning team wins a reward (usually a unique, luxurious experience) and are excused from the boardroom while the losing team returns to the boardroom for an elimination. In later seasons, winning teams have been permitted to view the next stage of the boardroom on the TV in their suite.
The entire losing team remains in the boardroom and are confronted with their loss. They are interrogated as to the reasons for their loss and which players contributed to it or failed at the task. Then, for the final stage of the boardroom meeting, the project manager is asked to select a certain number of teammates (typically two, but on occasion one or three) to bring back into the final-stage boardroom meeting. The remaining teammates return to the suite while the project manager and the selected teammates step out of the boardroom momentarily so the host can consult with his advisors.
Upon returning to the boardroom for the final stage, the host and his advisors continue interrogating the remaining players about their loss. The project manager is sometimes further interrogated about his or her choice of teammates to bring back into the boardroom. Ultimately, at least one project manager and/or remaining teammate is "fired" at the host's discretion, and leaves the show. The host has broad discretion to fire candidates outside of this usual process, including firing multiple candidates at a time. The eliminated contestants are shown leaving the boardroom with their luggage and entering a taxi cab, during which they given time to recount on their elimination that is shown over the episode's credits.
When only three or four candidates (depending on the season) are left, they are interviewed rather than being assigned a task. Executives from various companies interview the finalists and report their assessments to the host. Based on the interviews, a "boardroom meeting" and firing take place, leaving two candidates.
The final two candidates are then each assigned a different final task. Each is given a support team of previously fired candidates. Final tasks generally require the finalists to organize (to various degrees) an event such as a party or a fundraiser which has multiple planning elements. In a final boardroom meeting following the final task, the host "hires" one of the two candidates to become his "apprentice", winning the show's prize of a one-year $250,000 starting contract to manage a business project offered by the host.
After recovering from a series of financial setbacks in the early 1990s, the well-known New York real-estate developer Donald Trump changed his business strategy from borrowing to build and purchase assets to licensing his name to others. Producer Mark Burnett approached Trump about a new television show. Although Trump was skeptical, stating that reality television "was for the bottom-feeders of society", Burnett proposed that Trump appear as himself, a successful businessman with a luxurious lifestyle.
The first season of The Apprentice aired during the winter and the spring of 2004. The show is co-produced by Burnett and Trump. The premise of the show, which bills itself as the "ultimate job interview" in the "ultimate jungle", is to conduct a job talent search for a person to head one of Trump's companies. The position starts with an introductory one-year contract with a starting yearly salary of $250,000.
The popularity of the show led to Trump becoming known for his fateful catch phrase, "You're fired!" and for the emergence of Trumponomics, a "portmanteau of Donald Trump and economics initially spelled ‘Trump-Onomics’ (2004), [which] started out as a bland managerial concept on cable TV, meant to convey the notion that 'impressing the boss' was the only way to 'climb the corporate ladder' (The Apprentice, Season 1)."
For most seasons, the candidates ostensibly live in a communal suite at Trump Tower in Manhattan. This was originally billed as a penthouse suite, and after boardrooms, candidates were told to "go up" to the suite. However, in reality, the suite and the boardroom (and its elevator lobby) are all purpose-built sets within Trump Tower, all on the same floor. Later seasons of The Celebrity Apprentice no longer conceal this.
The Apprentice was so successful that, according to Trump, he earned $214 million from 14 seasons of the show, plus more from related product licensing as his name as a brand became more valuable. As the popularity of the series grew, more and more of the tasks began to be tied to specific companies. For example, sales tasks would require a team to take over a brand-name storefront or restaurant and operate it; and marketing tasks would require teams to prepare a marketing material (e.g. a jingle or flyer) or campaign for an established company. In later series, the launches of specific products would be tied to the airing of episodes of the series. Several companies have appeared multiple times on the show.
Trump's original advisors were Carolyn Kepcher, Former Chief Operating Officer and General Manager for the Trump National Golf Club, and George H. Ross, Executive Vice President and Senior Counsel, The Trump Organization. In August 2006, Trump released Kepcher from her duties at the Trump organization saying only that he "wishes her the best." Kepcher also left The Apprentice at that time. Upon her departure, Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump became a regular advisor; though she was not officially billed as a replacement for Kepcher. As the series progressed, the advisors were occasionally substituted on a weekly basis with other advisors including two of Trump's other children, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, as well as past winners of the show and other business executives (typically from the company whose product or service was featured in the episode.
During Trump's tenure, the series frequently featured and promoted his properties, products and brand. Trump's wife Melania Trump was also featured on the series several times including in several tasks that have featured her fashion and cosmetic products. Ivanka Trump's fashion products have also been featured in tasks.
Trump's on-screen (and real-life) assistants have each grown in personal fame. Two assistants appeared jointly for the first five seasons: Rhona Graff and Robin Himmler. In season six, Trump elected to have his newest executive assistant, Andi Rowntree, star in the LA-based show. For the Celebrity Apprentice, Annette Dziamba appeared for the seventh season, and Amanda Miller since the eighth season.
Season six, unlike the rest of the series, took place in Los Angeles. The teams resided in a mansion, with the winning team of each challenge occupying the house, and the losing team camping out in tents in the backyard.
On May 14, 2007, the series was left off NBC's schedule but NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said he was still in discussions with Mark Burnett and Trump. On May 19, 2007, Trump announced that he was "moving on from The Apprentice to a major new TV venture". On May 22, NBC announced The Apprentice might return next season even though Trump had said he had quit. However, NBC and Trump resolved their differences, and the first season of The Celebrity Apprentice began production shortly thereafter.
|George H. Ross|
|Donald "Don" Trump, Jr.|
|Patrick M. Knapp Schwarzenegger|
The Apprentice also spawned a reality television dating game show. On June 17, 2010, Donald J. Trump Presents The Ultimate Merger premiered on TV One. The series stars Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, a former political consultant who in 2004 appeared on the first season of The Apprentice and once again in 2008 on the first celebrity edition of the show. Each of the twelve contestants vying for the affections of Manigault-Stallworth were selected by Trump himself.
On February 2, 2005, NBC announced that they would broadcast the first spin-off from The Apprentice, called The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. The show, which ran from September 21 to December 21, 2005 was hosted by Martha Stewart, who was the first woman in the world to become a self-made billionaire. It kept the format of the original series but changed a few elements to fit Stewart's personality. Trump was one of the executive producers of the show and castings were held in 27 cities across the United States.
At the time, the original Apprentice was airing new seasons in each of the fall and winter, each with declining overall ratings. The Apprentice: Martha Stewart aired on Wednesdays during the same fall season as the fourth season of the original Apprentice (which aired Thursdays). The Apprentice: Martha Stewart struggled while the original series' fourth season again earned poorer ratings than the previous season. Trump claimed that there was "confusion" between the two shows. There has also been talk that Trump did not want Stewart to host the spin-off show. NBC announced that it would not bring back the show for a second season, although the network stressed that the show was initially planned to air only for one season. The show averaged between six and seven million viewers. Before Stewart's show ended, Trump and Stewart had a fight over Stewart accusing Trump that he did not want her to have a successful show, that he might have wanted it jinxed. Trump denied this charge, and both TV stars have not worked together again, and there are no plans for the future.
Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of The Apprentice on NBC.
Note: Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps.
|Season||Winner||Winner's Project||Timeslot||Season Premiere||Season Finale||TV Season||Ranking||Viewers
|1||Bill Rancic||Trump Tower Chicago||Thursday 9:00PM||January 8, 2004||April 15, 2004||2003-04||7||20.7||28.1|
|2||Kelly Perdew||Trump Place||September 9, 2004||December 16, 2004||2004-05||11||16.1||16.9|
|3||Kendra Todd||Palm Beach Mansion||January 20, 2005||May 19, 2005||15||14.0||14.0|
|4||Randal Pinkett||Trump Entertainment||September 22, 2005||December 15, 2005||2005-06||38||11.0||12.8|
|5||Sean Yazbeck||Trump SoHo||Monday 9:00PM||February 27, 2006||June 5, 2006||51||9.7||11.3|
|6||Stefanie Schaeffer||Cap Cana||Sunday 10:00PM||January 7, 2007||April 22, 2007||2006-07||75||7.5||10.6|
|10||Brandy Kuentzel||VIP Golf Tournament||Thursday 10:00PM||September 16, 2010||December 9, 2010||2010-11||113||4.7||4.5|
The Apprentice was the breakout rookie hit of the 2003–04 U.S. television season and helped NBC at a time when the network's two long-running successful comedies, Friends and Frasier, were ending their series' runs. The Apprentice filled the void on Thursday nights as NBC held on to the tagline Must See TV, even though CBS was quickly becoming the most-watched network on Thursday night.
Although the series was one of the most-watched programs on NBC in the advertiser-friendly 18–49 age demographic, the franchise's total audience gradually dissolved, starting in late 2004, when it aired its second season that culminated in, what most Apprentice fans deem, an "overextended" 3-hour season finale on December 16, 2004.
The audience numbers (11.25 million viewers) for the June 5, 2006 fifth season finale were not factored in the fifth season average because it aired after the official television season ended.
The audience numbers for the show steadily declined following the first season. Originally, NBC aired the sixth season of The Apprentice, competing against both immensely popular series, Desperate Housewives and Cold Case, just a few weeks before competing against Brothers & Sisters and Cold Case.
|Season||Team name||Overall record as a team|
Whereas winners have been named "executive vice presidents", and given the title of "owner's representative," in actuality, they were employed as publicity spokespeople for the Trump Organization. Second season winner Kelly Perdew, on his first day working for Trump, was introduced by his boss to Florida developers working on a Trump-branded condo, the Trump Tower, in Tampa, Florida, where he was told that he would help promote sales of the building by appearing at promotional events.
After Trump's statements questioning if President Barack Obama was born in the United States, The Apprentice was criticized for its involvement with Trump. Some people publicly called for NBC to fire Trump from his role on The Apprentice, including former US Congressman Anthony Weiner. Industry media speculated about the extent to which Trump's media comments may have contributed to the show's ratings decline, given how other Trump-associated businesses have suffered since Trump's political campaign began. One (anonymous) Celebrity Apprentice contestant even announced an intention to boycott the May 15 taping of the season seven finale, unless forced by contract to appear.
At the Electronic Entertainment Expo on May 17, 2005, Legacy Interactive announced that it had purchased the rights to develop a video game based on The Apprentice. The game was to be released in fall 2005, on the Xbox, PlayStation Portable, and personal computer (PC). The Apprentice was released for PC on February 28, 2006. The player chooses a character and is then paired up with one of four former Apprentice contestants, including Omarosa. The player must perform well in a series of business tasks, played across 18 minigames, to avoid a boardroom confrontation with Donald Trump and his advisors, George Ross and Carolyn Kepcher.
Alex Navarro of GameSpot rated the game 3 out of 10 and called it a "collection of games that you can play better versions of for free or significantly cheaper elsewhere on the Internet. Not only are these games overly simplistic, they're just not that much fun." Navarro wrote, "Most offensive of all, however, is how cheaply The Apprentice handles its license. This game presents itself horribly. It looks like it was programmed hastily with Macromedia, with all the characters appearing as weirdly drawn cartoon versions of themselves." Navarro also criticized the game's audio clips of Donald Trump, and its short length, noting that the entire game could be completed in 20 minutes.
On February 6, 2007, Legacy announced a new game, The Apprentice: Los Angeles, to be released online and in retail stores during the show's sixth season. The Apprentice: Los Angeles was released on May 1, 2007. The player must serve customers throughout the game's 40 levels, set in four locations. Depending on the player's success throughout the game, the player receives praise and criticism from Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump.
Jim Squries of Gamezebo gave the game three and a half stars out of five, and praised the "bright" and "colorful" graphics, as well as the "smooth" controls and diverse gameplay. Squries wrote, "Ultimately, the only disappointment to be found in The Apprentice is the slightly shoddy handling of parts of the license. Trump's audio clips are brief and sound like they were recorded in a tin shack, while the team-based aspects of the show could've been played up more to create additional appeal for fans of the show."
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