Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fantasy Network League: The Apprentice

Hey, it's a new feature! Deep down, I think I could run a network. So occasionally I'll spend some time talking about how I'd save a show or set a schedule. Since I have absolutely no power, this will have no bearing on anything at all. But, you know, I was quoted in the L.A. Times. Anyway, This came from a chat with Mysterious Don about The Apprentice. See, it was cancelled, and now it's announced it's coming back as a 'Celebrity Edition'. I think we can agree that will be either awesome or a train wreck, or more likely, both at the same time.

The Apprentice has lost viewers every season, with the most recent season having only about 35% of the viewership of Season One. Part of that's the loss of novelty, part of it's scheduling, part of it is America getting bored with Trump yet again. If the last twenty years have taught us anything, it's that Trump is eternal, yet cyclical.

I sort of feel like The Apprentice is a damaged brand. Once a show like that loses heat, it's not coming back. And when it comes to that, you've got two options. You either give it a godforsaken time slot that you know you're going to lose and be happy with whatever ratings you get (like NBC did last season), or you go for a 'celebrity' season. People will watch celebrities doing things. Remember The Mole? I think that had two seasons, and then 3 more as Celebrity Mole. Personally, I think the celebrity season is the best thing they can do, as far as bringing in new viewers. It's never going to be a hit again, but I think they can get it to a solid mid-level show.

If I were running NBC, I'd use The Apprentice as a summer show. I think reality shows benefit from doing only one season per year -- Survivor's not nearly as popular as it once was, and I think that's because two weeks after one season ends, we're meeting a whole new bunch of castaways. Besides that, with summer shows, a solid mid-level performer is more than enough to carry the night. Further, I'd put it on Thursdays at either 9 or 10 and cross promote it with The Office reruns. I don't think Trump would enoy being likened to Michael Scott, but I don't think he'd pick up on it either.

I'd also play up the Ivanka angle, as she's getting a lot of press as a sex symbol these days. The important thing is to make sure that Trump and his sidekicks are on every episode and in every boardroom. It's not like Simon just starts skipping American Idol, you know? Or every third week they replace him with Clive Davis. Now, Carolyn got fired from the Trump Organization for putting the show above her job, and George has rarely appeared for the last few seasons, because he's putting his job above the show. So you get Ivanka on every episode, and promote the fact that she's on it. The negative publicity Trump tends to create doesn't backsplash onto her. As for the third Boardroom person, no more of those past winners. They're total stiffs in the Boardroom. I think it's important to have a crusty let loveable old guy. If George is too busy to continue, there's got to be somebody else in the organization.

As for show mechanics, I think they should have more tasks that force the Apprentices to do the work themselves. Too often, they get access to a graphics department and designers, and what have you. Make them go out there and sell some damn toothpaste in a mall! And last season's change where the winning Project Manager remains as Manager until they lose is a good change. They should stick with it. Not only does it eliminate the typical 'Fire the PM' result, but it creates internal tension which makes for good viewing. (Poor bastards ending up with Surya week after week...)

I think NBC could have a solid Hell's Kitchen-level performer if they handled it like this. And if they do any of this, I will sue them blind for stealing my ideas.

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