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Donald Trump disses Martha Stewart's 'Apprentice,' blames her for his own ratings problems


By Reality TV World staff, 10/20/2005 

With Martha Stewart's The Apprentice spinoff proving to be a ratings dud and his own Apprentice series continuing to experience an ongoing ratings slump of its own, it's now apparently time for Donald Trump to pay attention to one of his favorite business lessons -- "Always look out for yourself... and feel free to throw your business partners under the bus."

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Taking to the airwaves in an apparent one-man attempt to reinflate his own sagging ego, the hubris-filled Trump blamed The Apprentice 4's ratings slump on "confusion" with Martha's version while simultaneously claiming his show "continues to do well" in a Wednesday interview with ABC Radio.

"The Art Of The Comeback" author then went even further in a Thursday morning interview with Don Imus, telling the syndicated radio host that although he co-owns The Apprentice reality franchise with Mark Burnett, he personally "was never in favor" of giving Martha Stewart her own edition of the show.

"The numbers are still good," the real estate mogul told ABC Radio about his own Apprentice edition. "I think there was confusion between Martha's Apprentice and mine. Mine continues to do well, and as you know, the other one has struggled severely."

The Apprentice: Martha Stewart has proven to be one of the fall television season's biggest ratings disappointments, with the highly promoted show having averaged only 6.6 million viewers in its original Wednesdays at 8PM time period before NBC flipped it back an hour into the little-chance-for-success 9PM timeslot that now pits it against ABC's Lost megahit.

As a result, Trump has apparently decided to cite Stewart's show as the sole noteworthy reason for the ratings decline of the fourth edition of his own Thursday night The Apprentice series -- a stance that at best, fails to recognize that the addition of Stewart's show would appear to have only exacerbated an existing ratings problem that began with last fall's initial sequel to the original early 2004 megahit.

Rather than note the fact that (like the rest of NBC's Thursday night slate) The Apprentice has suffered from the network's loss of Friends and the complete ratings collapse of its Joey spinoff replacement, Trump instead puts the blame on Stewart's show -- and now claims he knew it would happen all along. "I think it probably hurt mine and I sort of predicted that it would, because there was a lot of confusion in the world," Trump boasted to ABC Radio.

Trump became even bolder in today's Imus interview, telling the host that "I never thought it was a good idea" and stating "I was never in favor of it" at least four times, according to Business Week.

Not unlike his partners in several of his well-publicized business failures, Trump also appeared to leave Burnett holding the figurative bag, telling Imus that "[NBC Entertainment president] Jeff Zucker never liked what he saw" and launched into what Business Week writer David Kiley described as an "'I told them so....If only they would have listened to me' rant."

Trump's comments appear to ignore that not only had NBC admitted having concerns that airing two editions of the series at the same time might result in burning out the reality franchise when it first announced its fall schedule, but the ratings for The Apprentice's second and third editions were already well below those of the show's original edition.

Last fall's The Apprentice 2 averaged 16.14 million viewers and a 5.8 rating during its run, a significant drop from the initial Apprentice edition's 20.70 million viewers and 7.5 rating (an average that, at the time, had placed The Apprentice 1 just behind Survivor: Pearl Islands' 20.72 million average to rank 7th -- ahead of E.R. -- in the 2003-2004 season's viewership rankings.)

Unfortunately for Trump (and NBC), The Apprentice's problems only got worse as NBC struggled to overcome the loss of Friends, gradually turning the network's once dominant Thursday night lineup into "Must Flee TV." While the ratings hemorrhaging slowed, last spring's third Apprentice edition also performed significantly worse than the fall's Apprentice 2, averaging 13.96 million viewers and a 5.0 rating.

So far, the ongoing ratings decline has continued this season, with The Apprentice 4's first four broadcasts averaging 10.10 million viewers and a 3.6 rating.

Meanwhile, The Apprentice 4 continues to significantly outperform its Joey/Will & Grace lead-in combo, which have averaged 7.46 million and 8.88 million viewers respectively. Joey's dismal performance actually puts it behind ABC's Alias (7.60 million viewers) and just ahead of UPN's Everybody Hates Chris (6.53 million), Fox's The O.C. (6.49 million), and The WB's Smallville (5.89 million) in the ratings bloodbath that has suddenly become network television's most competitive hour. Note: Although it's taken some cuts of its own, CBS' Survivor: Guatemala -- Burnett's other big reality hit -- has continued to dominate the Thursday 8PM hour, averaging 17.52 million viewers to rank 7th in the season-to-date viewership rankings.

Considering that both Joey and Will & Grace are also well off from last season's numbers -- although both programs eroded significantly over the course of last season, they still averaged 10.16 million and 10.01 million viewers respectively -- why Trump has targeted Stewart rather than Joey star Matt LeBlanc as the source of his problems remains unclear. Perhaps it's because he knows the well-mannered domestic diva is unlikely to fire back -- maybe "Don't pick a fight with someone who might fight back" is another Trump business lesson.

Trump's sudden confession did teach the public one new lesson -- that as Kiley notes, despite his frequent claims to the contrary, Trump clearly can be convinced to put his name on a product he doesn't believe in. After all, it was only eight months ago that as co-owner of the Apprentice brand, he gushed "I am thrilled to be able to offer my good friend Martha the opportunity to join me in the success of The Apprentice."

Some might consider that a significant business misstep for someone who has built their business empire by marketing his own name as a luxury brand. After all, why else would anyone buy Trump Water?

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