'Apprentice' set to air during February sweeps

“Survivor” creator Mark Burnett today will begin shooting his Gotham reality series “The Apprentice,” headlining real estate tycoon Donald Trump as master of 16 would-be personal assistants.

“We are so impressed with Mark Burnett and his team for finding the smartest contestants ever to participate in an unscripted drama, and we have every reason to believe that ‘The Apprentice’ will become a franchise for NBC,” entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker told Daily Variety.

Midseason reality series, skedded to begin airing during the February sweeps, will test what matters most — street smarts or education. In each of the 13 episodes, Trump will assign a business task.

The last contestant left — “the apprentice of the master” — will be awarded a yearlong job with Trump and a six-figure salary.

The contestants, like Burnett, arrived in New York late last week. On Friday, Burnett and Trump told an informal gathering of reporters that the 16 candidates were selected from 215,000 applicants — twice the number of those applying for the first “Survivor,” which remains a hit reality franchise for CBS.

Trump boasted that all the networks have approached him about doing a reality series, but it wasn’t until Burnett made his pitch that Trump bit.

“And they offered me a lot of money, too,” Trump said.

Burnett has been a Trump disciple since 1987, when he read the mogul’s bestseller, “Trump: The Art of the Deal.” At the time, Burnett said he was selling T-shirts in Venice Beach.

“The Apprentice” is being produced by Mark Burnett Prods. This summer, Burnett partnered with Reveille and Magna Global Entertainment to produce NBC reality show “The Restaurant.”

If “The Apprentice” is picked up by NBC for a second season, Burnett said he hopes to keep Trump on as “the master.”

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