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The Apprentice
The Apprentice Logo.png
Format Reality
Created by Mark Burnett
Starring Donald Trump
Carolyn Kepcher (2004–2006)
George H. Ross
Ivanka Trump (2006–present)
Donald Trump, Jr. (2006–present)
Theme music composer Kenneth Gamble
Leon Huff
Anthony Jackson
Opening theme For the Love of Money
(broadcast version only)[1]
Performed by The O'Jays
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 8
No. of episodes 115
Running time 60 minutes (seasons 1-6)
120 minutes (season 7-9)
Original channel NBC
Original run January 8, 2004 (2004-01-08) – present

The Apprentice is an American reality television show hosted by real estate magnate, businessman and television personality, Donald Trump, created by Mark Burnett and broadcast on NBC. Billed as "The Ultimate Job Interview", the show stars sixteen to eighteen business people competing in an elimination-style competition for a one-year, $250,000 starting contract of running one of business magnate Trump's companies.

The show has run for nine seasons, with the seventh, eighth and ninth seasons featuring celebrities competing for charity.



Each season begins with a group of contestants with backgrounds in various enterprises, typically including real estate, restaurant management, political consulting, sales, and marketing. Although the selection process appears rigorous, it has come to light that several of the contestants are pre-selected through personal contacts with the producers and show executives. During the show, these contestants live in a communal penthouse, allowing their relationships to build. In Season 6, however, the teams were separated, with the winning team living in the LA mansion and the losing team taking up residence in tents located in the mansion's backyard. They are placed into teams, and each week are assigned a task and required to select a project manager for the task. The winning team receives a reward, while the losing team faces a boardroom showdown in order to determine which team member should be fired (eliminated from the show).

Elimination proceeds in two stages. In the first stage, all of the losing team's members are confronted. The project manager is asked to select up to three (one, two, or three) of the team members who are believed to be most responsible for the loss. In the second stage, the rest of the team is dismissed, and the project manager and the selected members face a final confrontation in which at least one of the two-to-four is fired.

Trump reserves the right at times to do the following: not allowing the project manager to choose who goes to the boardroom for a final hearing, fire/eliminate any candidate without a final boardroom session if there's enough information to warrant so, and fire multiple people if two or more people are found liable for the weak performance. Trump also reserved the right to fire all candidates inside the boardroom if all candidates performed badly. In season 6, the project manager of the winning team got the opportunity, and was mandated, to sit with Donald in the board room and help make the decision of who from the losing team gets fired. The winning project manager was expected to ask questions and give opinions in the board room during this process.

When the final candidates are left, an interview process begins, involving executives from various companies who interview each of the finalists and report their assessments of them to the host. After that, a firing takes place. In the event four are left, a double firing occurs. Seasons 4-6 were the exception to this rule as Seasons 4-5 foresaw Trump jettisoning the remaining members of a losing team (eliminating the need for interviews), and Trump utilized three pairs of two and a final four for Season 6.

Save Season 6, the final two are then assigned different tasks, along with support teams composed of previously fired candidates. After the tasks are done, a final boardroom occurs, with testimonials from the team members and a last chance for the final two candidates to prove themselves to the target CEO. Finally, Trump hires one of the two candidates to become the apprentice for the season (save Season 6, in which Trump fired two people from the final six to decide the final four, and hires one of the four candidates to be the apprentice).

The opening theme music used on the show is For the Love of Money by The O'Jays.[1]


The first season aired during the winter and the spring of 2004. The Apprentice is produced and created by Mark Burnett and is hosted by real estate magnate, Donald Trump, who also serves as co-producer of the show. The premise of the show, which bills itself as the "ultimate job interview" in the "ultimate jungle," is to conduct a job talent search for a person to head one of Trump's companies. The position starts with an introductory 1-year contract with a starting yearly salary at six figures ($250,000 USD to be exact, roughly about $4807.70 USD per week assuming a 52-week work-year). The show led Trump to become known for his fateful catch phrase, "You're fired!" The contestants live communally in a suite at Trump Tower in Manhattan and the boardroom showdown is with Trump and two of his associates (originally Carolyn Kepcher, Former Chief Operating Officer and General Manager for the Trump National Golf Club, and George H. Ross, Executive Vice President and Senior Counsel, The Trump Organization). Season 6 saw the show move to Los Angeles.

In late August 2006, Donald Trump released Carolyn Kepcher from her duties at the Trump organization saying only that he "wishes her the best." No official reason has been given for her being fired from the company, but Kepcher was quoted as saying "After 11 years with the Trump Organization, Donald and I had different visions for my future role in the company." Her future role on the Apprentice TV show has not been confirmed, although Kepcher has appeared on tape for the 6th season one or two times. Ivanka Trump appeared in a similar role on the show as Kepcher's, but was not an official replacement.[2]

Known for his tendency to surround himself with beautiful women, Trump's on-screen (and real-life) assistants have each grown in personal fame. Two assistants appeared jointly for the first five seasons: Rhona Graff and Robin Himmler. In the sixth season, Trump elected to have his newest executive assistant, Andi Rowntree, star in the LA-based show.

A spin-off, The Apprentice: Martha Stewart followed the same concept, with Martha Stewart as the host and eventual employer. It debuted in September 21, 2005, following Stewart's release from prison and home detention. The last episode aired December 21, 2005, but due to dismal ratings, it was not renewed for a second season.

On May 14, 2007, the series was left off NBC's schedule but NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said he was still in discussions with Mark Burnett and Trump.[3] However, on May 19, 2007, Trump announced that he was "moving on from The Apprentice to a major new TV venture", effectively ending the series in the United States.[4][5] But on May 22, 2007, NBC announced The Apprentice might return next season even though Trump had said he quit.[6]

On May 29, 2007, Trump said that NBC wanted a seventh season and he would be returning as the host.[7] On July 6, 2007, it was announced that The Apprentice has been officially renewed for a seventh season with a possibility of an eighth season.[8] On July 16, 2007, NBC confirmed that the show was renewed for a seventh season to run mid-season. In an effort to revitalize interest in the series, the seventh season featured celebrities playing the game to raise money for charities.[9] On January 28, 2008, NBC confirmed that the show was renewed for an eighth season to start in January 2009 and featured high profile celebrities playing the game to raise money for charity.[10] On April 29, 2009 NBC officially announced The Celebrity Apprentice is renewed for a third season (ninth season overall) to air in the spring of 2010.[11]

On March 17, 2010, NBC officialy stated that a new version of the original Apprentice would be brought back. They claim that with the economy being so poor, a show like this with regular working people will be attractive to audiences once again. This will not interfere with Celebrity Apprentice, that too will get a new season.[12]

U.S. television ratings

Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of The Apprentice on NBC.

Note: Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps.

Season Winner Winner's Project Timeslot Season Premiere Season Finale TV Season Ranking Viewers
(in millions)
Finale Viewers
(in millions)
1st Bill Rancic Trump Tower Chicago Thursday 9:00PM January 8, 2004 April 15, 2004 2003–04 7 20.70 [13] 28.05 [14]
2nd Kelly Perdew Trump Place September 9, 2004 December 16, 2004 2004–05 11 16.14 [15] 16.93 [16]
3rd Kendra Todd Palm Beach Mansion January 20, 2005 May 19, 2005 15 13.96 [15] 14.02 [17]
4th Randal Pinkett Trump Entertainment September 22, 2005 December 15, 2005 2005–06 38 11.01 [18] 12.81[19]
5th Sean Yazbeck Trump Soho Monday 9:00PM February 27, 2006 June 5, 2006 51 9.73 [18] 11.25 [20]
6th Stefani Schaeffer Cap Cana Sunday 10:00PM January 7, 2007 April 22, 2007 2006–07 75 7.5[21] 7.94[22]
7th Piers Morgan N/A Thursday 9:00PM January 3, 2008 March 27, 2008 2007–08 48 11.00[23] 12.1[24]
8th Joan Rivers Sunday 9:00PM March 1, 2009 May 10, 2009 2008–09 52 8.98[25] 8.7[26]

The Apprentice was the breakout rookie hit of the 2003-04 U.S. television season and helped NBC at a time when the network's two long-running successful comedies, Friends and Frasier, were ending their series' runs. The Apprentice filled the void on Thursday nights as NBC held on to the tagline Must See TV, even though CBS was quickly becoming the most-watched network on Thursday night.

Although the series is still one of the most-watched programs on NBC in the advertiser-friendly 18–49 age demographic, the franchise's total audience gradually dissolved, starting in late 2004, when it aired its second season that culminated in, what most Apprentice fans deem, an "overextended"[27] 3-hour season finale on December 16, 2004.

The audience numbers (11.25 million viewers)[28] for the June 5, 2006 fifth season finale were not factored in the fifth season average because it aired after the official television season ended.

The audience numbers for the show have still remained on the decline since its first season. Originally, NBC aired the sixth season of The Apprentice, competing against both immensely-popular series, Desperate Housewives and Cold Case, just a few weeks before competing against Brothers & Sisters and Cold Case.


The most common criticism of the U.S. version of The Apprentice is that the challenges often amount to nothing more than commercials and product placements. This became more evident starting from the second season. The companies that have supplied challenges to the show include Planet Hollywood, Lamborghini, Domino's Pizza, Staples, Burger King, Yahoo!, Nestle, Visa, Sony, Home Depot, Walmart, Microsoft, Quiznos, Lexus, and many others. These companies pay NBC to showcase their brands on the show, and usually the challenges revolve around the teams marketing existing or new products for the sponsors[29]. The show also, of course, provides massive publicity for Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, and the carefully-edited portrayal of Trump is flattering. The second half of the show is usually set entirely in the boardroom, which typically degenerates into finger-pointing and name calling amongst the contestants.

There is also controversy regarding the jobs given to the hired Apprentices. Instead of becoming the CEO of one of Trump's companies, the winners of the show are hired as PR spokesmen for Trump and his brand. For example, Kelly Perdew, winner of the second season and Bill Rancic, the first season's winner, were given the title of 'owner's representative', and were also named executive vice presidents. On Perdew's first day, his boss introduced him to Florida developers working on a Trump-branded condo, the Trump Tower, in Tampa, Florida. "Mr. Trump said, 'OK, Kelly, you're going to go help promote sales of the building'.[30]

Another controversy revolves around age discrimination. In January 2007, a class action lawsuit was filed against Trump on behalf of those who did not make the cut for the show due to what they contend was their age.

Lord Alan Sugar, the star of the British version of The Apprentice has criticised it because "they’ve made the fatal error of trying to change things just for the sake of it and it backfired"[31]

Video game

Legacy Interactive created a video game version of The Apprentice for the PC. It features Donald Trump and his advisors, as well as past candidates, and is currently available on Yahoo! Games. The player selects either a male or a female character to play and must control the character through a number of tasks including puzzles. The character must create a billboard; sell ice cream, Italian food, or hamburgers; help create toys, chocolates and lamps; and sell items in different neighborhoods.

Martha Stewart

On February 2, 2005, NBC announced that they would broadcast the first spin-off from The Apprentice, called The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. The show, which premiered on September 21, 2005 was hosted by Martha Stewart, who was the first woman in the world to become a self-made billionaire. It kept the format of the original series but changed a few elements to fit Stewart's personality. Trump was one of the executive producers of the show and castings were held in 27 cities across the United States.

The fourth season of The Apprentice earned less than spectacular ratings, while The Apprentice: Martha Stewart struggled. Trump claimed that there was "confusion" between the two shows. There has also been talk that Trump did not want Stewart to host the spin-off show. NBC announced that it would not bring back the show for a second season, although the network stressed that the show was initially planned to air only for one season. The show averaged between six and seven million viewers. Before the show left, both Donald Trump and Martha Stewart had a fight due to Stewart accusing Trump that he didn't want her to have a successful show, that he might have wanted it jinxed. Trump denied this charge, and both TV stars never worked together again.

Similar programs


  1. ^ a b Smith, Scott C. "DVD Review: The Apprentice - Season One"; December 17, 2005
  2. ^ People Connection AOL
  3. ^ Guthrie, Marisa; "UPFRONT: NBC Unveils Fall Picks"; May 14, 2007
  4. ^ Yahoo! News
  5. ^ 'The Apprentice' star Donald Trump to NBC: You can't fire me, I quit Reality TV World
  6. ^ Denhart, Andy; "NBC says The Apprentice could return despite Trump’s quitting"; May 22, 2007
  7. ^ "The Apprentice: Trump Says NBC Wants Him Back"; May 31, 2007
  8. ^ Rocchio, Christopher; Rogers, Steve; "Report: NBC to announce renewal of Donald Trump's The Apprentice; July 6, 2007
  9. ^ "NBC Commits to a new celebrity version of The Apprentice featuring Donald Trump as celebrity contestants vie to be the best business brain under Trump's Tutelage; July 16, 2007
  11. ^ NBC Entertainment
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Viewership numbers of primetime programs during the 2003-04 television season
  14. ^ Viewership numbers of primetime programs for the week of April 12-18, 2004
  15. ^ a b Viewership numbers of primetime programs during the 2004-05 television season
  16. ^ Viewership numbers of primetime programs for the week of December 13-19, 2004
  17. ^ Viewership numbers of primetime programs for the week of May 16-22, 2005
  18. ^ a b Viewership numbers of primetime programs during the 2005-06 television season
  19. ^ Viewership numbers of primetime programs for the week of December 12-18, 2005
  20. ^ Viewership numbers of primetime programs for the week of June 5-11, 2006
  21. ^ 2006-07 primetime wrap
  22. ^ Sunday 4/22/07 - Topic Powered by eve community
  23. ^ 11 million watch Celebrity Apprentice, which was the top-rated 18-49 show of the night
  24. ^ "Nielsens: 'Amazing Race,' how sweet the ratings". May 12, 2009. Retrieved October 4, 2009. 
  25. ^ "Season 8 Program Ranking". June 2, 2009. Retrieved October 4, 2009. 
  26. ^ "Network TV Press Releases: “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Biggest Loser: Couples,” Pace NBC’s Week". May 12, 2009. Retrieved October 4, 2009. 
  27. ^ "16.9 million watch Apprentice 2 finale, fewer than last season’s clip show.". December 20, 2004. 
  28. ^ " The Programming Insider". June 14, 2006. 
  29. ^ Rebecca Lieb (2005) "Apprentice" Advertisers Share Their Numbers Retrieved February 24, 2006
  30. ^ Perdew recalls
  31. ^ Sir Alan Sugar Speaks MSN Entertainment

External links

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