NBC holds Trump card

Winner will get yearlong job, six-figure salary

Mark Burnett is getting ready to conquer a new jungle: Manhattan.

The “Survivor” producer has snagged a 13-episode commitment from NBC for “The Apprentice,” a nonfiction competish in which would-be moguls brave a simulated corporate environment, all with the goal of landing a job with a tycoon who’ll then train the winner in the art of the deal (and other real-life business lessons). The first mogul: Donald Trump, whose Trump Organization will serve as the focal point of the competish.

Project, which had been pursued by several webs, is the latest addition to Burnett’s increasingly crowded plate of productions.

In addition to supervising “Survivor” and USA’s “Eco-Challenge,” Burnett is exec producing a sitcom and a reality skein for the WB and exec producing the NBC/Reveille/Magna Global reality skein “The Restaurant.”

NBC alternative topper Jeff Gaspin said the Peacock has built up a solid relationship with Burnett during pre-production on “The Restaurant” as well as two separate negotiations for proposed space race reality skeins, neither of which got off the ground. Net is already in business with Trump because of its deal to carry the mogul’s various beauty pageants.

“We had all the right pieces to do this,” Gaspin said.

Trump will play an active role in each week’s episode, helping to determine which of the contestants is “fired” from the competish. He’ll then hire the winner to serve under him for at least a year, pulling down a six-figure salary in the process.

Contestants will be a mix of college grads and blue-collar types; all will have to face challenges testing their “intelligence, chutzpah and street smarts,” according to NBC.

Skein is being targeted for fall or midseason 2004.

” ”The Apprentice’ will give young, ambitious, hungry go-getters the opportunity to be an understudy to the master,” Burnett said. “Our show takes unscripted drama to a new level by challenging America’s best and brightest and rewarding them with the job of a lifetime.”

Just as runners-up on Fox’s “American Idol” have found showbiz success, Burnett predicted those who don’t win “The Apprentice” will find business success elsewhere.

“All of the candidates will become prime “headhunter” material in the job market after this show,” he said.

Conrad Riggs, who reps Burnett, will serve as a producer on “The Apprentice.”

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