Reality series to return in the fall

As part of their economic stimulus plan for America, NBC and Donald Trump are dusting off “The Apprentice.”

Under the pickup scenario, Peacock will air the original flavor “Apprentice” in the fall, with a fourth edition of “Celebrity Apprentice” (which is expected to be renewed) in the winter.

“So many people have been asking us when are we bringing the original show back,” Trump told Daily Variety. “I’m not sure I had that interest two and a half or three years ago. But the concept of what has happened with the economy has really stoked interest.”

Peacock has aired “Celebrity Apprentice” over the past two years, while the original, civilian “Apprentice” hasn’t been seen on the air since 2007 — just prior to the nation’s economic downturn.

The new “Apprentice” will mostly stick to the original format — 14 entrepreneurs from various walks of life, living together and forming groups to compete in various challenges. At the end, as always, Trump will be there to fire that week’s weakest link.

And at the end of the season, the ultimate “Apprentice” will be given a gig inside the Trump Organization.

But this time around, the focus will be on casting contestants who have been hit by the recession. That includes players who have been downsized; people in dead-end careers with no hope for advancement, and recent college graduates with few job prospects.

In the biggest switch from the original, fired contestants won’t immediately be shuttled off to a waiting cab. Instead, Trump said he’ll end each episode with a bit of career coaching to the exiting players.

“We’ve got to do something about the economy and this is a terrific way to provide jobs as well as business lessons along the way,” Trump said.

“NBC, Mark Burnett and I hope this economic downturn can begin a turnaround, and we’ll do our best with ‘The Apprentice’ to see that it starts happening,” he said.

Casting has begun on the new “Apprentice,” which will be shot in June and July. Unlike the two-hour “Celebrity Apprentice,” the original “Apprentice” will stick to its one-hour format. Show also won’t be running on Sunday nights, as NBC has “Sunday Night Football” on tap in the fall.

The original “Apprentice” bowed in 2004 and became an immediate hit — leading NBC to air the show in its “Must-See TV” Thursday 9 p.m. slot. The first “Apprentice” attracted 28.1 million viewers to its finale, but by the show’s sixth edition in 2007 that number had dropped to 7.9 million.

NBC brought back the franchise — but this time as the star-fueled “Celebrity Apprentice” edition (with proceeds going to charity) in 2008 as writers’ strike contigency programming.

“Celeb Apprentice” spawned new editions in 2009 and 2010. Burnett said he was particularly proud of the show’s charity angle.

Decision to bring back “The Apprentice” comes as CBS posts strong numbers for its new “Undercover Boss” franchise.

Pact also comes a week after NBC renewed its Miss USA/Miss Universe deal with Trump for another three years (Daily Variety, March 9). Asked about the prospects for the rival Miss America Pageant — which just lost its home on cabler TLC — Trump called that organization’s predicament “a terrible situation.”

“They haven’t kept up with the times,” said Trump, who once tried to purchase Miss America.

Mark Burnett Prods. and Trump Prods. are behind “The Apprentice.” Burnett, Trump, Page Feldman and Eden Gaha are exec producers.

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