Monday, May 29, 2006

THE APPRENTICE: TAPPED OUT

For the umpteenth week in a row I almost forgot to tune in The Apprentice. I only caught the show because I flipped the channels during commercials of the NBA game on ABC. The fact that a die-hard like me is so thoroughly bored to almost forget the Sean vs. Lee final matchup should raise a lot of red flags for NBC. I'll bet NBC can't wait for this Apprentice season to end, this show is running out of ideas fast. It sunk to a pathetic new low this week: the Donald is now ripping off other reality shows. This week they take a page out of the American Idol playbook by urging Americans to text-message their vote for who ought to be the Apprentice.

Now, I don't know about you, but this is a sure jump-the-shark moment. Everyone's whole season on this show, spent working hard and building up their capital with the Trump powers-that-be, has been reduced to nothing more than a popularity contest. Worse yet, these contestants get to be judged based on how they were edited by producer Mark Burnett. It cheapens the competition, really, allowing all these yokels out there at home to vote.

Of course Lee, a.k.a. the "politician", ought to be able to win this hands down. Heck, it would be easy for him to do. Anyone with a rudimentary background in politics can organize their people to get out the vote. Lee could get a bunch of his political friends together and have them round up people off the street. They could put all of them in a room and feed them pizza all day while they text-message hundreds upon hundreds of votes into NBC. That's what real politicians would do: get out the vote. He'd win, no matter how crummy a job he did all season. If it's within the rules, why not do it? Of course, Lee could very easily lose this "vote" based on the terrible edit he got on this week's show. The boardroom laughed at his team selections- they didn't even recognize Pepi because they had fired him so quick- and the sponsor ripped him apart and threatened to pull out. I could see a big humiliation coming next week from the Donald: "Lee, you're no good as a manager, and you're not even good as a politician. You can't even win an election! Lee, you're fired!"

Not only is this a ripoff of American Idol, it rips off Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, American Inventor, Big Brother (season 1), Last Comic Standing and all these other shows that allowed Americans to cast a vote for the winner. This looks to me like a cheap stunt. Donald Trump knows full well that corporate America is no democracy; you don't elect managers in the corporate world, you HIRE them. Maybe he'll simply ignore the vote results. He ought to.

The other show that is getting ripped off is The Bachelor, as Sean decides to waste his effort spending too much time with Tammy, trying to woo her and rekindle their relationship. Whether Tammy actually is interested in this guy is another story. Someone should tell our jolly old English friend here that this is America, land of the sexual-harassment lawsuit. He needs to quit with the office romance already.

Besides, why bother showing this, already. We've seen this sort of romance thing before, over on Survivor. They had the Rob and Amber thing going, too. Ripping off Survivor is nothing new for this Apprentice show. Just you watch: The Apprentice will probably attempt to have an All-Star Edition, just like Survivor did, where they give all the more popular former contestants who were fired a second chance at getting hired. Heck, they're now switching their venues around ( to L.A. ) just like Survivor and Amazing Race do all the time. I wouldn't put it past these folks to try a stunt like that, an all-star edition.

It's really sad. It's clear that these producers are grasping at straws, resorting to cheap gimmicks to try and grab an audience for The Apprentice. This once-vibrant show, once a trend-setter that made "you're fired" a catch phrase and which spawned parodies and ripoffs from the likes of Mark Cuban and Richard Branson, has been reduced to stealing bad ideas from other reality TV series just to stay on the air. To which I say, NBC, put this series out of its misery already. Just say "you're fired" to all these folks. This is just too much for the die-hard fans to take, seeing this formerly-great show go down the tubes like this.

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