There hasn’t been a “regular” person edition of “The Apprentice” in nearly three-and-a-half years, with the last one being 2007’s Los Angeles-based Season 6. Since then, a lot has changed.
As “Apprentice” head honcho, Donald Trump, intones at the beginning of Thursday (Sept. 16) night’s Season 10 premiere, “Two years ago it began: an economic crisis that swept the world and almost brought our country into another Great Depression. You may think the worst is over but still talented, smart people are unemployed. They’re looking for work, they have no prospects.”
The Donald goes on to assure viewers that, “I hate what I’m seeing and I’m going to do something about it” with a “recession-themed” season.
The contestants are definitely familiar with the recession. There’s a former engineer who is now a tow truck driver, a corporate attorney who now sells $2 cupcakes from a truck and a couple of advanced degree holders forced to go back and live at home.
And while it would be brutal, a pitting of one team of down-on-their-luckers against one full of they-just-need-to-apply-themselves could make for an interesting reality show that has something to say.
Instead, we get the predictably old battle of the sexes — men against women — and a terribly insignificant first task: design a modern workspace.
It’s hard to muster sympathy for the father of 5 whose marriage to his high school sweetheart fell apart after he lost his high-paying sales job and has to go outside and file by phone for his unemployment benefits. Especially when it’s paired with across-the-board pettiness, back-stabbing and boardroom grousing that someone didn’t put on a necktie.
During the past three years, there have been three “Celebrity Apprentice” editions that have been surprisingly enjoyable. Largely, because the celebrities were playing for charities, not their livelihoods.
The economic downturn has made the “everyone is out for only themselves” aspect of regular “Apprentice” distasteful because the stakes are so much higher and people can’t just leave the show and return to their generous salaries, taken-for-granted medical and flush 401-Ks like they did in seasons past.
Judging from the Season 10 premiere, with so much to gain, the Season 10 crop really needs to stop playing like they have nothing left to lose. Especially their dignity.
“The Apprentice” premieres Thursday, Sept. 13 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
Photo credit: NBC