NBC announces plans for celebrity edition of 'The Apprentice'
By Christopher Rocchio and Steve Rogers, 07/16/2007
Two months after announcing that it still wasn't sure whether it was going to renew the increasingly poorly-rated series, NBC has formally announced that Donald Trump's The Apprentice will return for a seventh edition. However rather than featuring another group of previously unknown money-hungry Type-A personalities, The Apprentice's next edition will feature celebrities vying to be crowned Trump's "Best Business Brain."
"It's always good to be in business with [The Apprentice producer] Mark Burnett and Donald Trump," said newly-named NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio (and former reality television producer) Ben Silverman. "I am so excited to offer viewers what promises to be the most explosive version of The Apprentice that anyone has seen."
Similar to previous installments of The Apprentice, the celebrity contestants competing on the show's seventh edition will be divided into two teams and asked to complete various tasks to impress The Donald. However instead of competing for a job at one of Trump's many business ventures, the celebrity contestants will be raising funds for various charities throughout the competition.
However celebrity status or not, the contestants won't be able to escape the boardroom, as they'll still be sitting in on sessions to advise Trump on which of the stars from the opposing team should be fired each week. Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. will also reprise their roles as boardroom advisors to their father during several episodes of The Apprentice's next edition, which NBC plans to air as 2007-2008 midseason programming.
"The success of The Apprentice has been a great experience for me," said Trump. "I believe that celebrity Apprentice will bring our wonderful show to new heights."
According to Daily Variety, the idea of doing a celebrity The Apprentice edition originated with Silverman, who was impressed with "how well" a celebrity version of the show did in Britain. Although casting has just started, Silverman -- who has already begun attempting to convince The Office cast members to participate -- told Variety there has been "strong" early interest in the concept.
NBC announcement confirms earlier reports that the Mark Burnett-produced reality competition series would return and brings an end to the saga surrounding the show's seventh edition.
The Apprentice: Los Angeles, the reality franchise's sixth Trump-fronted edition, premiered concluded its broadcast run in April. A few weeks later, NBC -- while being careful to avoid announcing The Apprentice had been outright canceled -- revealed that it was leaving the reality series off its initial 2007-2008 primetime programming schedule. Needless to say, NBC's actions didn't sit too well with The Donald, causing the real-estate mogul to claim he was "moving on" from the network before he could officially be fired.
Following Trump's statement, NBC reiterated it was undecided on what do with The Apprentice, at least until Silverman -- a reality television producer who had previously worked with Burnett on NBC's The Restaurant in 2003 -- was suddenly named NBC's new programming chief.
Shortly after taking NBC's programming reigns, Silverman asked Trump and Burnett for a one-week extension on the network's option to renew The Apprentice for a seventh season. Trump and Burnett agreed to give NBC an additional week, and while the new June 8 deadline had passed without a formal announcement, reports surfaced that the show was in fact going to be renewed emerged earlier this month.
NBC isn't the first network to decide to attempt to use of celebrity edition to reinvigorate a sagging reality series. In 2002, ABC decided to produce Celebrity Mole: Hawaii, a celebrity edition of The Mole, a clue-based reality competition series that had previously aired two unimpressively-rated non-celebrity editions.
While Celebrity Mole: Hawaii's 2003 broadcast delivered ratings that were good enough to merit the production of a second celebrity The Mole edition that aired in 2004, the celebrity editions' dumbed-down riddles frustrated many original The Mole viewers.
Unlike The Apprentice's celebrity edition, The Mole's celebrities did not compete for charity. In 2003, comedian Kathy Griffin -- an admitted reality TV addict who now stars in her own Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List Bravo reality series -- won $233,000 for correctly determining that model Frederique Van Der Wal was Celebrity Mole: Hawaii's mole. A year later, former NBA basketball badboy Dennis Rodman won $222,000 for correctly determining that actress/model Angie Everhart had been masquerading as Celebrity Mole: Yucatan's mole.
Celebrity Mole: Yucatan marked The Mole's final edition.