Monday, May 15, 2006

THE DONALD LAID OFF, BUT NOT FIRED

NBC announced its upfronts today and, in what surely is a stunning announcement for fans of the series, The Apprentice 6 slated for Los Angeles will not be part of the fall schedule. Instead, it will air in January, at 9PM, after the Football Night in America season is over.

It could have been worse. It sure looks now as if this show came very close to being out-and-out cancelled by NBC. There was some speculation on the blogs (Reality Blurred) and elsewhere (the Television Without Pity boards) that this show was possibly on the chopping block! This was in spite of all the NBC promos urging people to audition for season six in LA. It's hard to believe that people at NBC were actually considering giving Donald Trump the boot, but his show has had a terrible year. The ratings this season have been awful, with regular third-or-fourth place finishes in its Monday time slot every week. The numbers were so bad that they took this show off the air for one week, to make room for the awful Celebrity Cooking Showdown. Had that show not been such a complete flop for NBC, who knows what would have happened. The Apprentice 6 could very well have gotten banished to CNBC next season. So I think it's fair to say this show came stunningly close to being cancelled. Most other network shows would get the boot after a season such as this one. But despite its decline, this sinking Apprentice show will get one more shot ( a last shot?) at saving itself from the axe.

For what its worth, I think this is a necessary move for the show, putting it on ice for a while and moving it out of Mondays. Last fall's overexposure, with the Donald and Martha Stewart airing on two consecutive nights, burned people out on this show. Same with the carping and the bickering between the two of them. Of course, the infamous move to Mondays against 24 has just killed this show. Now the final humiliation: the Apprentice series is moving to the Siberia of the whole NBC schedule. Sunday Night--- the night that finished The West Wing off for good.

I sort of have an unconventional view of this new night for the show. I actually think that by moving The Apprentice to Sunday nights this series may stand a chance of attracting all the alpha-males and football fans who want to see some competitive reality on Sunday nights after the football season is over. NBC's audience on Sundays is bound to go up with the acquisition of the NFL. NBC has to hope The Apprentice 6 will hold on to this audience: all the guys repulsed by ABC's Desperate Housewives. But that show is still on a roll: Housewives smoked the Survivor finale in the ratings last night, which is really bad news for the whole reality genre. I know lots of people are going to say this new time slot is total death for the Apprentice show, but I don't know of any better place to put this series. Desperate Housewives is tough competition, but no worse than being served up against 24 or CSI.

This series really does need some time off. It will be good for The Apprentice to be away from their fans for awhile. By the time it airs again, the fans will be excited and so happy to see the show return to the air again that maybe there might be a revival of interest. And maybe we'll get a season 7.

The other thing that will be needed is a total rethink of the way these tasks are done on this show. The fans have been highly critical of this season's competitions. They've blasted the show for all the infighting they see on it, saying that this has become a show about bitching and complaining and that this series no longer teaches valuable lessons on how to make it in business. Clearly this show has to get back to basics. Too many people have grown cynical this season, feeling the fix is in on a lot of these tasks. Especially this season, with these "judges" coming in and making some questionable calls about which team won or lost. Donald Trump and Mark Burnett have a lot of decisions to ponder about the direction of the show, or else they may not have a show for much longer.

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