In a move that surprised few, NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker announced yesterday that the network's new hit reality show The Apprentice will return for a second season and began accepting applications for the new edition.

Donald Trump will once again be "The Master" and will executive produce along with reality uber-producer Mark Burnett. Sixteen new contestants will be recruited for the competition which will film in and around Manhattan with all new challenges, twists and surprises. A fall premiere is expected.

"The Apprentice is a red-hot breakout hit for NBC and it has delivered some of the best ratings of any new show in NBC history," said Zucker. "Donald Trump and Mark Burnett are the most potent force in television today and Iím thrilled to say that The Apprentice will have an appointment on NBC for many years to come."

"Itís been a great honor working with NBC and Mark Burnett," said Donald Trump. "We always knew that The Apprentice was an original and smart alternative to other reality shows. Incredible ratings were just an added bonus. I canít wait to get back in the boardroom for season two."

"With The Apprentice we tried something quite different and Iím so happy that it is such a huge success," said Burnett. "I attribute this to the incredible television presence of Donald Trump and the smartest, most intriguing cast I have ever put together for a reality show. In the upcoming season, we promise more great characters, tougher tasks and longer, more intense boardroom showdowns."

Mail-in applications for the second season of The Apprentice are now available on The applications, which require the standard "tell us about yourself" videotape, must be received by March 4, 2004. Additionally NBC plans to conduct nationwide open casting calls in select US cities -- with the exact dates and locations to be announced at a later date.

In its first three telecasts on Thursday nights, The Apprentice has averaged a 9.4 rating, 23 share among the Adults 18-49 demographic and 19.1 million viewers overall, making it televisionís #3 series in Adults 18-49 and #6 series in total viewers through 19 weeks of the 2003-04 season. With its January 29 telecast, The Apprentice delivered NBC's highest regular-program Adults 18-49 rating in the Thursday 9-10 p.m. hour in 15 months and generated a 48 percent jump over the network's season-to-date average.

The Apprentice is produced by Mark Burnett Productions in association with Trump Productions LLC. Mark Burnett and Donald Trump are executive producers. Burnett is represented by Conrad Riggs who will also serve as a producer on the project.