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'The Apprentice' apartment rental staged for TV?


By Wade Paulsen, 03/02/2004 

In the seventh episode of the hit NBC series The Apprentice, a team of contestants rented a Brooklyn apartment for 27% over its previous asking price after giving it a three-day fix-up. Nice work.

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Or was it?

In the Staten Island Advance, Deborah Young, a writer for the paper, reveals that she was the person who rented the apartment on the show ... but that, prior to signing the lease, she had made an agreement with the landlord that she would only have to pay the original rent, regardless of the terms of the lease. However, the controversy, such as it is, seems to reflect more upon the hazards of interfaces between reality TV and the "real world" than upon the intent to deceive of the producers of The Apprentice.

According to Young, she had been on the verge of leasing the apartment when her real-estate agent called her to tell her that the landlord had given it to a reality-TV show, which was going to try to negotiate a higher rent at an open house. She then showed up early on the day of the open house ... and berated the landlord, off-camera, for reneging on her prior rental agreement. She toured the apartment but wasn't interested in it at the higher price and left.

Later that day, after a fruitless search for another place close by, Young again ran into the contestants (the "Protege" team on the show) on the street. They tried to sell her on accepting the higher rent, but she had another idea in mind ... and asked the landlord, off-camera, if he'd rent her the apartment at the original rent if she went along with signing the higher-rent lease contract for the show. He said "yes," so Young signed the on-camera deal. Protege won its challenge, but Young still lives in the apartment and claims to pay the lower rent.

So, was the result of the challenge a deception by the producers of The Apprentice? Not necessarily. After all, Young signed the deal with the team that it had requested, and any future deals (or even side deals) between Young and the landlord were out of the show's control.

In this case, the landlord was clearly panicky about the prospect of having turned away a renter at the original price and ending up with no renter at the "improved" price. Unless show executive producers Donald Trump and Mark Burnett had purchased the apartment themselves, they had no ongoing involvement in the lease relationship after the lease was signed. Thus, some incident like this one might even be considered to be inevitable when you bring contestants in a reality-competition show off deserted islands and into the "urban jungle."

Before including a similar challenge in the second season of The Apprentice, however, we recommend that the executive producers improve their "vetting" process for landlords ... or, like the upcoming ABC show The Complex, have the teams actually buy and then resell the renovated unit!

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