×

Is Trump to Blame for ‘The New Celebrity Apprentice’ Bust?

Two weeks before he was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump took to Twitter to offer his take on “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” the rebooted NBC reality show starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role previously occupied by Trump.

“Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got ‘swamped’ (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT,” Trump wrote. “So much for … being a movie star — and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.”

It was a bizarre moment in a bizarre subplot to the Trump national drama: The president-elect using Nielsen ratings as a club with which to beat a television show that he executive-produced and would make money from while in the Oval Office. Trump would keep at it, continuing to criticize the show and needle Schwarzenegger in the weeks to follow. The two men even ended up in a Twitter war, arguing over ratings.

Unfortunately for NBC, audiences were never as enthralled by “The New Celebrity Apprentice” as the president was.

The Schwarzenegger season ended quietly Monday night, drawing a 0.9 live-plus-same day rating in the 18-49 demo — down 47% from the finale of the previous, Trump-hosted season. Whereas most “Apprentice” finales had been well-hyped two-hour live events, Monday’s was a pre-recorded hour led into by a rerun of “The Wall.” And while previous seasons had aired on Sunday nights, NBC scheduled this season on Mondays, where it faced stiff competition from ABC’s “The Bachelor.”

“It was handled in a different way than it had been in the past,” said Katz Television Group’s Bill Carroll. “I think ultimately that impacted its performance.”

NBC had announced during the early stage of Trump’s primary campaign in 2015 that “The Celebrity Apprentice” would return with Schwarzenegger as host. The former California governor made a splashy appearance at the network’s upfront presentation the following May, unveiling a teaser for the show and a new catchphrase: “Let’s get down to business.”

But after Variety reported exclusively in December that Trump would retain an executive producer credit on the revived show — and would receive a per-episode fee in the five-figure range — efforts to promote the series became mired in controversy. Series creator Mark Burnett was a no-show at a press conference for the show the day after news of Trump’s executive producer credit broke. Speaking with reporters at that event, Schwarzenegger implied that Trump could have had a more active role in the show than NBC, producer MGM, and Trump himself had indicated.

“Not with me,” Schwarzenegger answered when asked if Trump had been active in day-to-day production decisions. “It could easily be that he was involved with NBC or with Mark Burnett, but not with me.”

The next month, after the show premiered, Kawasaki announced that it would pull out of a sponsorship deal for “The New Celebrity Apprentice” — then quickly reversed course, saying in a statement that the company sought to “remain neutral in regards to American politics.”

“The New Celebrity Apprentice” also faced the usual challenges of an aging reality franchise attempting to regain relevance after the loss of its central talent.

“Arnold Schwarzenegger was fine, but it was a different dynamic,” Carroll says. “‘The Apprentice’ in the United States was Trump. From the opening credits — the Trump helicopter, the Trump plane, Trump buildings, it was so identified with Trump and his personality that it’s difficult to recast.”

NBC has given no indication as to whether the “The New Celebrity Apprentice” will be renewed — the network declined to comment for this story — but the mix of middling ratings and controversy does not bode well for its future. And with Jennifer Lopez’s “World of Dance” and a possible “American Idol” revival in the works, NBC’s unscripted pipeline has plenty of competition-series options.

Given the current shakeup among his inner circle, perhaps Trump has other problems now to occupy his time.

More TV

  • Riz Ahmed

    'Lives Are Quite Literally at Stake': Riz Ahmed on Seeing More Muslims On Screen

    Art can provoke feeling, but its impact has limitations in the face of legal and systemic oppression, said Riz Ahmed, the activist and actor known for “The OA,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “The Night Of,” onstage at the CAA Amplify conference in Ojai on Tuesday, calling for the high-powered industry execs, talent, [...]

  • Discovery Corporate New Logo

    Discovery Faces Backlash From Unscripted Producers After Shift in Series Payment Process

    Discovery Inc. is facing a backlash from the unscripted production community following a shift in the cable giant’s protocol for paying for programming. During the past year, Discovery has implemented a new system that calls for the company to pay producers for shows after all episodes and related material for a given season have been [...]

  • "The Curse of Cleopatra - Parts

    'Blood & Treasure' Renewed for Season 2 at CBS

    The CBS summer adventure series “Blood & Treasure” has been renewed for a second season. In the series, Danny McNamara (Matt Barr) is a former FBI agent specializing in stolen arts and antiquities. Lexi Vaziri (Sofia Pernas) is a resourceful art thief who is haunted by the tragic loss of her father, which she blames [...]

  • Side-Games-1

    Spectrum Originals Picks up Soccer Drama ‘Side Games’ for U.S. Distribution

    Charter Communications’ OTT service Spectrum Originals has reached a deal with Spain’s The Mediapro Studio for the U.S. rights to its popular series “Todo por el Juego,” (“Side Games”). The series will debut in the States on July 15. The Mediapro Studio produced the series, which was developed by popular Argentine screenwriter Eduardo Sacheri, a [...]

  • Mary J Blige Walk of Fame

    Mary J. Blige Inks First-Look TV Deal With Lionsgate

    Mary J. Blige has signed an exclusive first-look television deal with Lionsgate. Under the pact, Blige and her newly-launched Blue Butterfly productions will develop and produce TV series for the studio. The singer-actress will also have the opportunity to create content across Lionsgate’s various business platforms. “Mary is a very talented artist, fearless visionary and an [...]

  • Discovery Names Andrew Georgiou Eurosport and

    Discovery Taps Andrew Georgiou as Eurosport and Sports Rights Boss

    Andrew Georgiou has been appointed president of Discovery-owned Eurosport. The sports channels and streaming service has been without a chief since Peter Hutton left for Facebook. Georgiou assumes a wider role than Hutton, running Eurosport as well as overseeing sports rights and marketing across Discovery. It has been moving aggressively into the sports sector, licensing [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content