Who'd have predicted The Apprentice
would become such a hit? (Donald Trump aside.) And not just any hit, but one of the top-rated programs of the 2004 television season. A number of reality shows had crashed and burned before The Apprentice
made its debut. Just as it was starting to seem as if the heyday of the non-scripted program was coming to an end--not counting American Idol
--NBC's entrant into an overcrowded field was as an out-of-the-gate, must-see phenomenon.
The concept is simple. Real estate magnate Trump selects 16 players from business applicants across the nation. The grand prize? A $250,000-a-year job running one of his companies. As in producer Mark Burnett's Survivor, the contestants are then sent to an island--the island of Manhattan. In the first episode, they're introduced, then divided into two teams: the men (Versacorp) versus the women (Protégé). From this point on, they will compete in a variety of business-related challenges. The parallels to Survivor are clear, but brains will be more important than brawn--although charisma never hurts. The challenges include selling a product, managing a restaurant, and devising an advertising campaign.
At the end of each episode, the losing team is sent to the boardroom, where they meet with Trump and advisors Carolyn and George. The person considered most responsible for the loss gets to hear the immortal words: "You're fired." Although there can only be one winner, several stars would emerge during the first season: unctuous Sam, plainspoken Nick, sassy Heidi, and abrasive Omarosa. Various celebrities would also make guest appearances, such as Isaac Mizrahi, Regis Philbin, and Jessica Simpson. The success of The Apprentice would inspire a second season, as well as a host of imitators and spoofs, like Billionaire with Richard Branson and The Assistant with Andy Dick. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
You haven't seen The Apprentice until you see it on DVD! Donald Trump, one of America's most successful businessmen, teams up with Executive Producer Mark Burnett (Survivor) to create a thrilling, no-holds-barred game where the ultimate prize is the dream job of a lifetime. Now experience the phenomenon like never before with all the best moments you didn't see on TV, including an exclusive sneak peek at The Apprentice 2!