New reality show plays a Trump card
Posted: Jan. 3, 2004
Go ahead and laugh at Donald Trump if you like: at the street-tough posturing, the bloated ego, the hair-helmet that hasn't moved a millimeter in decades.
For every one of us who giggles, there's someone else who aspires to be just like him.
Someone for whom a million or two is chump change. Who won't feel fulfilled until, like Trump, his or her name is attached to a large building, preferably a Tower.
Someone like David Gould, 31, who went right from medical school to an MBA program when he realized, as he tells it, that he "couldn't do anything with an M.D. except treat patients."
Gould and 15 other go-getters - including Jessie Conners, a New Richmond, Wis., entrepreneur who's the baby of the group at 21 - compete for a $250,000-a-year job with Trump in "The Apprentice," an outrageously entertaining new reality series from "Survivor" mastermind Mark Burnett.
For the entertainment, thank Burnett, who treats Trump's glittering Manhattan as one more fantasy island, with concrete jungles to be slashed through and Wall Street peaks to scale.
For the outrageousness, thank The Donald, to whom humility is unknown and hospitality means showing off "the nicest apartment in New York - mine."
Lemonade or lemons?
The lucky eight who get to see Trump's abode, which sparkles more fiercely than the swankiest restroom in the priciest hotel in Las Vegas, are the members of the winning team in the show's first challenge.
Using a tactic he's employed successfully in "Survivor," Burnett divides the two teams along gender lines. The first battle of the sexes is designed to bring these young hotshots down to earth: They can hardly believe it when they're told to go out on the streets of New York and sell lemonade.
One team triumphs and the other loses a player by the end of the 90-minute opener, but it's not clear who's ahead until the profits are tallied.
It's up and down for the women, who start with a show of confidence but then blow an early lead by getting embarrassingly lost. It's down and up for the men, who whine at the outset but quickly get their act together.
As always in a Burnett production, intra-team snits and skirmishes are played for maximum drama: political consultant Omarosa laying into stockbroker Tammy for taking a lunch break when no one else has had even a sip of water; Internet wunderkind Sam annoying everyone by spending 20 minutes trying to talk a group of incredulous New Yorkers into paying $1,000 for a cup of lemonade.
Everybody talks about merchandising strategy and location, location, location. Nobody talks about the quality of the lemonade, which may or may not say something about the larger world of capitalism.
Sadly, there's no way to bring bikinis into downtown Manhattan without sending everyone off to a health club or a Seventh Avenue showroom. Burnett does the best he can with tiny skirts and flimsy tops for some of the women, but it's disappointing that none of the better-looking men thought to take off his shirt before going out to sell drinks. Are you listening, Troy, Nick and Kwame?
"The Apprentice" is scheduled to run for 15 episodes. After this week's 90-minute post-"Friends" opener, hourlong segments will be shown at 7 p.m. (Central) Wednesdays starting Jan. 14.