Network time-wasters Apprentice-style

TrumpNote to Mark Burnett: When the O’Jays are singing “For the Love of Money” while Donald Trump and Regis Philbin look on, it’s not called entertainment. It’s called filler.

That’s the only conclusion a viewer could come to after sitting through that performance as part of the three-hour Apprentice finale last Thursday night. It was clear that Burnett, for all of his brilliance in making a show that is in essence a postcard to the back-stabbing mystique of New York, had run out of ways to fill the mammoth primetime slot he and the Donald were given to wrap up the show’s second season. The show was so dull that it practically qualified as news when we heard eventual winner Kelly Perdew mention something about—whilst trying to succeed at his final task of running a charity polo match in Greenwich—Unilever’s Wisk spending only $250,000 for its sponsorship of the match. (In one of the show’s funnier twists, when the club’s main polo honcho pointed out that the Wisk logo spraypainted on the field might upset the horses, Perdew had to madly cellphone his way into getting the logo moved to a less distracting location. Weirdly, of course, the skirmish meant that Wisk got much more than its money’s worth.)

As for the competition—other finalist Jennifer Massey had to run a charity basketball tournament—much of it seemed to revolve around whether or not the contestants did an effective job of kissing the Donald’s figurative ring. Jennifer didn’t see Donald off in his private helicopter as he left the game (for shame!), and Kelly escorted Donald to his exclusive box at the polo match, only to find it unkempt (the unspeakable horror!).

But it wasn’t until the so-called action moved to the faux boardroom set up in Lincoln Center that things really ground to a halt. Despite picking the winner in front of a seemingly enthusiastic live audience, it was about as suspenseful as seeing whether Donald’s hair is capable of moving. Philbin walked through the audience trying to gather input into the final decision—but with virtually everyone picking Perdew over Massey, the cut-aways to the two finalists made it seem like Massey’s real final challenge was to see if she could keep her composure on live TV while being almost universally dissed in front of an audience of millions.

On Friday, Unilever issued a release giving Perdew a year’s supply of Wisk detergent, explaining, “[Perdew] demonstrated that he lives life to the fullest and will stop at nothing to get a job done.  Wisk Laundry Detergent … upholds those same values and will bestow upon Kelly another prize: enough laundry detergent to last him the length of his apprentice year and a permission slip to live 2005 actively, yet stain-free.”

There’s something here that needs a good cleaning. But it’s not Kelly Perdew’s wardrobe.

—Posted by Catharine P. Taylor

Photo credit: Chris Haston