How Donald Trump's "Apprentice" Fell From Grace
APRIL 21, 2007: NBC's "The Apprentice" concludes its lowest-rated season ever on Sunday night with a live special from the Hollywood Bowl. Does anyone even care? Mark Burnett and Donald Trump however refuse to put the tired franchise out of its misery.
Three years ago when NBC concluded the first red-hot season of TV's campiest job interview, it recorded massive a viewer turnout making the event its highest rated entertainment telecast of the entire season.
Not only did NBC destroy its 22-year old Thursday night Must-See TV sitcom line-up to make way for Donald Trump's reality show, but its inaugural season ended with a 3-hour live finale which pulled in 28,1 million viewers.
The extravaganza named Internet entrepreneur Bill Rancic winner of a $250,000-a-year job with Donald Trump and it generated the highest 18-49 rating for NBC in 18 months.
No wonder NBC aired that week additional 5 hours of "Apprentice"-related prime time programming.
But it all went downhill from there, with the latest L.A.-based season generating an embarrassing 6-7 million average.
The loss of viewer and possibly network interest is visible in the program itself - "The Apprentice" was banished to Sunday nights at 10 and its rushed shorter season comes to a close with a one-hour show tomorrow night.
Normally, the contest culminated with the ultimate 2-episode battle of the final two candidates who had to stage an enormous PR event with the help of previously fired contestants.
This year however we get 4 remaining candidates who were given the final low-budget task to shoot a movie theater commercial and they are all going to the final boardroom. There is no time or budget to extend this any further.
Did the novelty wear off? Or was it Martha Stewart and her Apprentice fiasco in the fall of 2005? Maybe the public got tired of Trump's cocky behavior and constant catfights?
British tycoon Sir Alan Sugar who is the man behind the UK version of the show publicly criticized the original version saying "they’ve made the fatal error of trying to change things just for the sake of it and it backfired." Sugar refers to the show's move to LA, Trump's children replacing his advisers and the losing team being asked to live in tents.
Whatever the case Trump still believes he has the #1 show on television and the show's producer reality guru Mark Burnett said to New York Post: "If you think I'm going to let The Apprentice end... that's not going to happen. [Donald] Trump is too big of a name." He also noted that he and Trump are actually impressed with how well the show is doing in its sixth cycle.
That means the show may ultimately survive with a smaller budget on a cable network the way FOX's "The Simple Life" found its new life on the E! network. And even if the show then generates just one third of the audience it pulls in on NBC, those may still be the ratings a number of cable networks can only dream about.
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