With two little words, a flick of the hand, and that famously coiffed comb-over, real estate tycoon Donald Trump parlayed his financial success into a hugely popular reality television series based on personal and corporate intrigue. Billed as "the ultimate job interview," THE APPRENTICE lives up to its acclaim as 16 candidates vie for top position at one of Trump's companies and an accompanying $250,000 salary. Divided into two teams based on gender, the contestants compete against each other in assignments designed to test their business acumen, from selling lemonade on the streets of Manhattan to managing an NYC pedicab company. The team that makes the most money wins both a prize and immunity, while the losing team faces Trump and his assistants George Ross and Carolyn Kepcher in the dreaded boardroom, where one member is ceremoniously dismissed. Created by SURVIVOR's Mark Burnett, THE APPRENTICE shares that series' emphasis on personal conflict and cutthroat competition while adding the extra dimension of workplace reality familiar to office drones everywhere. This collection includes all 15 episodes of the series' fascinating and highly watchable first season. 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