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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Apprentice

I'm going to be frank.  I make a lousy businessman.

I know that capitalism seems to be the way of the world these days.  I know that big business and corporations - like it or not - are here to stay, and I also completely understand that our economy is directly linked to capitalism.

However, I'll be the first one to admit that I have a hard time understanding big business.  Although I do work retail, I don't really consider myself to be that great of a salesperson.  In order to be successful in business, you have to have certain qualifications.  You have to be confident.  You have to know your product.  You have to believe in your product.  And, you also have to have a certain level of charm, charisma, and personality.

Do I have any of those things?  Honestly, that's debatable.

But as of right now, I have my doubts that I could work in the world of big business.  I don't even like wearing ties.  I honestly don't even know if I know how to even tie a tie!  Oh, why couldn't I have been an adult during the time period in which we all dressed up like Crockett and Tubbs from Miami Vice?

However, dress code aside, I think that there might be hope for me after all.  I am a fairly creative person, and I can brainstorm several ideas in quick succession.  I'd also like to think that I'm keen enough to know what is working, and what isn't working.

So, when it comes to a particular reality show that has aired on a semi-regular rotation since January 2004, I honestly don't know how I would fare.  Maybe I'd go far.  Maybe I'd win.  Maybe I'd be the first one fired. 

Or maybe I would be so intimidated by Donald Trump that I would run out of Trump Tower in absolute terror and get run over by one of the millions of yellow taxi cabs scattered all over New York City.

Whatever the case, we're going to be talking about "The Apprentice", which airs on NBC. 

These days, the show has been retooled into a celebrity format, in which a group of celebrities (mostly B-list actors, athletes, former child stars, or reality show cast-offs) play the game to raise money for their respective charities.  For instance, the upcoming season of "The Celebrity Apprentice" will feature Geraldo Rivera, Ian Ziering, Lorenzo Lamas, Gilbert Gottfried, Leeza Gibbons, Keshia Knight-Pulliam, and Kate Gosselin, among others. 

That's fine and dandy, but I preferred the show a lot better when Donald Trump hired non-celebrity people to work within his organization.  I liked it better when we saw sixteen successful Americans working towards a goal.  I liked it when George Ross and Carolyn Kepcher were judges. 

All in all, I think that while "Celebrity Apprentice" has breathed new life into the show, I miss the old-fashioned version.

Of the thirteen seasons of "The Apprentice" that have aired, seven have been civilian editions.  The first six seasons, as well as season 10 have featured anywhere from 16-18 candidates competing for a chance to earn a position within Donald Trump's massive business.  It's no secret that Trump is definitely one of the biggest forces in American business today, and like him or not, he does know the business world inside and out. 

The show - which was created by "Survivor" creator Mark Burnett - divides the candidates into two "corporations".  In most cases, the teams are divided up by gender (with one exception being season three, which had a team of high school graduates competing against a team of college graduates).  The teams are expected to come up with a name for their corporation.

TRIVIA:  Past team names included Versacorp, Apex, Net Worth, Capital Edge, Gold Rush, and Kinetic.

In each week, teams would be assigned the same task, and the tasks were all business oriented, and were often sponsored by a pre-existing corporation.  Believe it or not, the very first task that the candidates had to embark on was selling lemonade on the streets of New York City - the same way that a lot of kids get started in the world of business.

Other tasks included coming up with a promotional campaign for Burger King's newest sandwich, filming a commercial for a beauty product, selling products on QVC, creating a new line of action figures for Mattel, designing a line of swimsuits, or even selling carriage rides through Central Park.

Each task also involved the team selecting a "Project Manager" to lead the task and get everything organized.

Winners were determined by how much money the teams made, how clear the message was that was presented in ads, how good the quality was on the items made, and through focus groups and their opinions.  If a team won, they were spared from the boardroom, and in later seasons, the project manager was exempt from getting fired in the following task.  If a team lost, the Project Manager would pick two or three people to join them, in which Donald and crew would decide which one would be fired.

At the end of the show, the final two candidates would embark on a super task, with former contestants coming back to assist in the task. 

And the winners of the show went to work for Donald Trump for a one-year-contract.  In some cases, the contracts were extended.  In the case of first season winner Bill Rancic, he stayed on with the company for quite some time, even subbing in as a judge for George Ross on a few occasions.

Now, over the years, seven people have been hired.  Rancic, Kelly Perdew, Kendra Todd, Randal Pinkett, Sean Yazbeck, Stefani Schaeffer, and Brandy Kuentzel.  But so many more have been fired from the show.

In fact, for the rest of this blog, I thought that I would take a look at some of the most memorable contestants to be fired from "The Apprentice", as well as some of the stupid mistakes that they made to get them the axe.  Believe me, you'll feel better about your own job blunders!

OMAROSA (Season 1)

Would you believe that Omarosa is the only Apprentice candidate to appear on the show a total of three times (she was on season 1, as well as two celebrity editions).  And, would you believe that on all three occasions she was fired, she was fired on a task where she was selling artwork?  You'd have thought that she would have learned the first time.

But all joking aside, Omarosa could very well be considered the very first Apprentice villain to appear on the show.  She was a nightmare to work with.  She accused one contestant of being racist towards her for using the phrase "like the pot calling the kettle black".  She told the team that she had a concussion from a piece of falling drywall hitting her in the head one minute, and the next she was playing basketball with a group of kids.  She clashed with almost every single female on the show.  And when she was assigned to assist Kwame Jackson in his final task to plan a concert for Jessica Simpson, she was such a disaster that many viewers (including myself) believed that she was purposely sabotaging Kwame's chance to win the show.  Personally, I do think that Bill would have won regardless, but Kwame deserved to have a better chance.  Hell, Kwame should have fired Omarosa on the spot!

BRADFORD (Season 2)

Bradford was in a fairly good position at the beginning of the second episode of the second season.  He was asked to go to the women's team to lead them on the first task, and because their team won, he was
exempt from getting fired.  That means that no matter how badly the team did, he could not be fired.

As it happened, the team lost the second task, which was coming up with a new ice cream flavour and selling it on the streets of New York.  And Bradford was extremely confident.  He was so confident that he told Trump that he didn't need his stinking exemption because he had performed well enough on the task that he didn't feel that he was going to be fired.

Silly Bradford.  Trump canned him on the spot for being so foolish.

VERNA (Season 3) and MICHELLE (Season 6)

You want to know what Trump dislikes more than people who give up exemptions?  People who decide to quit the game.  In the cases of Verna and Michelle, they walked away from the game without knowing if they could have made it.  Verna mentally checked out of the game during the show's second task, and by the beginning of task #3, she told the team that she had enough and walked out.  In Michelle's case, she resigned after she lead the team to a colossal failure, and decided that the position she was competing for wasn't worth it.

While I don't believe that quitting is such the sin that Donald Trump makes out to be (sometimes quitting one opportunity can lead to better ones coming along), I can't say I disagree with Donald not having sympathy for them.  After all, they took a spot that thousands of people applied for, and walked away from it.

TANA (Season 3)

This one pains me, because as the third season of the Apprentice drew to a close, Tana was easily considered the favourite.  She was the last member of the Street Smarts team going against Kendra, the last member of the Book Smarts team.  Although Kendra did have more wins as Project Manager than Tana did, Tana took on the responsibility much earlier than Kendra.  And Tana had always been a star on any of the teams she was on.

On the final task, Kendra had to put on a promotion and video game tournament sponsored by Sony PlayStation and Best Buy, while Tana had to put together a presentation for the Olympic committee demonstrating why New York City should host the 2012 Olympics (the show aired in 2005).  And the teammates who came to help Kendra and Tana out were six of the most volatile, uncooperative, uncontrollable contestants to appear on that season.

To compare and contrast:

Kendra's team worked well together with very few disagreements.  They all came together to make the event a success.  Kendra made her teammates feel that they were valued and respected, and in turn, Kendra's team wanted to succeed so that Kendra would get noticed.  The event went off near perfectly, and Kendra developed a new found appreciation for all of them.

Tana immediately asked if she could switch team members with Kendra, and vented to one of the judges about them, calling them the Three Stooges.  She never gave the team any direction, and even made them feel like they were an annoyance.  The end result?  No American flag for the flag presentation, no schedules for any of the people involved, and a brochure that was a complete embarrassment filled with spelling errors and things that should never have been included in a brochure.

Can you see why Trump picked Kendra over Tana?


Now, in most cases, Trump will only fire one person during each boardroom setting.  In a few rare opportunities, he'll get rid of two at once.  In this case, Trump pulled the ultimate Grand Slam and fired FOUR people at once.

All the teams had to do was generate an event to boost sales at Dick's Sporting Goods.  They could choose whatever sport they wanted to feature, and the main goal of the task was to
increase sales at the store.  Notice how I bolded increase sales in that last sentence?

Well, team Capital Edge did just that.  They created a mini golf course inside the store for children while their parents were looking around the store.  Every single team member focused on sales, and as a result, the sales increased by 74%.  A very decent number!

As for team Excel...well, they did anything but.  Sure, their event using a batting cage was a good idea to keep people entertained...but the team spent so much time on the batting cage that they neglected the fact that the task was measuring how much they were SELLING!  In the end, the team had a net LOSS of 34%!  Ouch.  And as a result, the four team members who didn't get a single sale were all given the pink slip.  It remains the most spectacular firing in the history of "The Apprentice".

So, do you have any more people to add to this list that I might have forgotten?  I'd love to hear from you!

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