Episode 4: Generally, the fastest way to increase sales is by turning existing customers into heavy users, not by luring new customers. Protégé, the women’s team, follows this strategy by drinking with all the men in the bar, turning light drinkers into budding alcoholics. VersaCorp, the men’s team, can’t follow this strategy since the social custom is that men buy drinks for women, and so it tries to lure new customers. The women win; team leader Kwame, Nick and Bowie face the Firing Squad; and Bowie gets knifed.
The opening credits play the O’Jays “For The Love Of Money.” Let’s play a different O’Jays song for tonight’s theme: “Backstabbers.”
They’re smilin’ in your face All the time they wanna take your place The backstabbers
Tonight’s first backstabber: The Apprentice’s executive producer Mark Burnett. As all industry insiders know, the turnaround of CBS from the last-place network to the first-place network began with Burnett’s giant-killing show Survivor. In its first season, Survivor went head-to-head with the #1 show on TV, ABC’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and CRUSHED it – forcing “Reege” down to his last lifeline virtually overnight. Because ABC is part of the ultra-incompetent Michael Eisner Corp. (motto: “My way or the highway”), it’s never recovered in four years.
In its second season, Survivor was placed against NBC’s Thursday night lineup. NBC had dominated Thursday nights since Grant Tinker took over back in 1980 and paired up The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers and Hill Street Blues, creating the pattern of four half-hour sitcoms followed by a drama. Since then, Wings, Seinfeld, LA Law, Friends, Frazier, ER and Just Shoot Me, among others, have continued the record of dominance. Since Thursday night charges the highest ad prices, due to all the demand from movie studios trying to buy spots for their flicks the night before opening, NBC has been enormously profitable over the years – which is why GE bought it in the first place. However, after Survivor: The Australian Outback started butting heads with the leadoff show, Friends (which took over as #1 after Reege’s luck ran out), NBC’s days of domination came to a sudden and unexpected end. In fact, the CBS show following Survivor – CSI – became the new #1. This was possible only because Survivor became the first show in 20 years to succeed against NBC’s powerhouse. However, in the bizarre world of Hollywood, the person hailed as a creative genius for breaking NBC’s hold on the night was CSI’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, not Burnett. Bruckheimer promptly sold four more shows to CBS, while CBS passed on Burnett’s new ideas for reality shows.
Three years passed before Burnett finally found another show that a network executive would touch with something less than a 10-foot pole: The Restaurant for NBC. Now comes payback time. Jerry Bruckhemer is a genius, asks Burnett? Well, let’s see how well CSI does against my new reality show, The Apprentice.
In this latest shuffle, Burnett now hopes to beat back NBC’s dominance at 8 PM with Survivor: All Stars on CBS, then to re-establish NBC’s dominance at 9 PM with The Apprentice. If this works, Burnett will be acclaimed as the innovative genius that he is … but CBS chairman Les Moonves, who after all supported Survivor when the expectations for it were nonexistent, will be bleeding from about 1,000 small stab wounds in the back.
Today’s episode will involve several people trying to emulate Mark Burnett, except that they’ll be doing their backstabbing against the whiff of failure. Will it work as well for them as it did for Burnett? We shall see.
As the show picks up after five minutes of recap and commercials (the better to permit viewers to watch the end of SAS on CBS before changing channels), Nick is relishing his survival. Amy notes that everyone thought Nick was getting the axe. Nick says that, after this experience, “When I win, it can only look favorably on me.” More proof that recent college graduates have somehow lost the ability to express themselves in plain English. Or maybe it's just Nick, the self-proclaimed "zen master of presentations."
Meanwhile, Protégé is proud of itself, despite last week’s venture into sleaze. Omarosa (I think that’s a female version of Osama – could she be related to Mr. bin Laden himself? She seems to cause about as much destruction…) says that “most people thought we were brought here to kumbaya.” No, they thought you were brought there to make spectacles of yourselves on national network TV … and they were right. Meanwhile, Heidi says that “the men are really embarrassed for themselves.” As they should be, if they’re losing to a team containing you.
Trump’s Chumps are given a one-hour warning that they will go into the boardroom in front of The Donald, with each project manager sitting in front of him. (By the way, we should point out that the “boardroom” is not the actual Trump Organization boardroom. Instead, it’s a “made-for-TV” set that’s supposed to look like the type of a boardroom that Americans think Donald Trump would have.) VersaCorp picks Nick as project manager, as per The Donald’s request in the last boardroom; Protégé picks Kristi, who should have led at Planet Hollywood.
In the boardroom, the first surprise: no George of the Urban Jungle! Apparently George has to tend to the actual running of the Trump Empire. In his place, we have another lawyer: one of Trump’s corporate counsels, Bernie Diamond. In bridge, diamonds are a minor suit, and Bernie certainly seems like a minor player compared to George. But then again, someone in The Trump Organization has to keep things running, and it’s becoming clear that The Donald ain’t that guy; he’s just the head salesman and backstabber-in-chief.
The Donald tells the Chumps that it’s time to shake things up, since VersaCorp is so shorthanded that it can’t compete any longer. He says, “In business and in real life, when things aren’t working well, you reorganize.” He should know, since he’s used the threat of reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy to screw his creditors and stockholders. And so, we get a draft. No ping-pong balls in a lottery for the first pick, though. Draft rules: Nick gets first pick and gets to pick a woman, Kristi has to pick a man first, both teams must end up with four women and two men. So … which project manager has more experience choosing up sides?
Nick picks … Amy. No surprise, since she’s clearly been the star of the show so far. The Amy’n’Kristi team is done for.
Kristi picks … Troy. A surprise to Trump, at least. However, the gap between the men is much less than the gap among the women, since so many men have already left. Anyway, it makes Nick happy, due to his clash with Kwame and Troy in the last task. So …
Nick picks Bill, meaning Kristi gets Kwame.
Kristi finally gets to pick a woman. And she takes … Jessie? Huh? Is there something about Jessie that I missed? I mean, she’s a nice kid and all, but the second-best woman? The names Ryan Leaf and Akili Smith (both second picks in the NFL draft and complete busts) come to mind.
Nick immediately takes Katrina. Uh oh, this draft isn’t shaping up very well for Protégé.
Kristi has a chance to redeem herself. She takes … Kwame? Now, let’s be honest, Kwame is the best of the people left (and I probably would have chosen him first among the men). BUT – if each team has to take 2 men, then Kristi got Kwame the moment that Nick picked Bill. Why not take the best woman available? She can wait until the last pick to take Kwame.
Nick takes … Ereka. This leaves Kristi with the unappetizing prospect of getting two of the show’s three primary drama queens on her team. And all because she never played sandlot baseball.
Kristi ends up with Heidi; Nick takes Tammy; and Kristi is stuck with Ms. Osama-rosa. New Protégé isn’t a pretty sight. Although it has the lion’s share of the advanced degrees (Kwame, Heidi and Omarosa all have masters; only Amy does on Protégé), it also has the only two remaining people without any college (Troy and Jessie). (BTW, Heidi’s masters is in Criminology – she should use her training to find the person who stole her real eyebrows.) And it has two of the three primary drama queens. Kristi, if it doesn’t work out on The Apprentice, you might have a future in the Cincinnati Bengals (or is it “Bungles”?) personnel office.