Cast: Katrina Campins, Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, Jessie Conners, Heidi Bressler, Jason Curis, Kristi Frank, David Gould, Kwame Jackson, Amy Henry, Bowie Hogg, Tammy Lee, Troy McClain, Bill Rancic, Sam Solovey, Ereka Vetrini, Nick Warnock
Now that the second season has recently come to an end and the third season is only a couple of weeks away, it's interesting to look back at the first season of reality show creator Mark Burnett ("Survivor" and the highly watchable, but highly staged "Restaurant")'s "Apprentice". For those unfamiliar, the show is a "13-week job interview", where sixteen candidates are brought in to live in Trump Towers and compete for a job with Donald Trump. After going through a weekly event (mostly trying to sell crap, but occasionally doing more interesting things like rehab an apartment for sale or hosting an event), the losing team is hauled into the boardroom, where the designated "project manager" and the rest of the team has to explain themselves. Afterwards, the Donald unleashes his popular catchpraise, "You're fired", sending (as he says) one to the street and the rest up to the suite.
The series doesn't always steer in a way that goes along with the idea that it's a "job interview", however, as the contestants lie and bicker their way through such tasks as selling lemonade and running a busy restaurant. The most believable element of the season is the series of interviews that the finalists have to go through with some of the higher-ups in "The Donald"'s organization, who don't hesitate to ask tough questions.
The show is perfectly cast to start conflicts (although none of them are quite as entertaining as season 2's geeky, yet confident bow-tie wearer Raj.) Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, a political consultant with an ego the size of Washington, D.C., was cast as the "villian" of the piece, constantly bickering with the other contestants and using a small bonk on the head from a piece of plaster that seemed to cause pain during tasks and not cause an issue during rewards. Despite being hated with a passion by the majority of the other constestants, she stuck around for most of the show (another contestant is fired for taking Omarosa's insults.) Sam was entertainment for a couple of weeks (his attempt to sell a guy a glass of lemonade for a grand was either too absurd to be real or he's just nuts), and Troy's country attitude may have helped the smart player slide under the radar. Nick and Amy's romance is much-discussed, but most of it seems to have ended up on the cutting-room floor (see a couple of bits in the deleted scenes section.)
On the other side of the table is Carolyn, Trump's advisor who speaks her mind - in other words, the show's Simon Cowell. On the second season of the series, Carolyn seemed to be having more fun, and a couple of well-placed shots of her laughing at the contestant's struggles were priceless. Trump's other advisor, George, manages to get his two cents in occasionally, such as the hilarious moment when he piped up on his thoughts regarding the looks of Jessica Simpson, whose concert Kwame Jackson was assigned to put on in one of the events.
"Apprentice" is often a bit silly and seems rather phony (although not nearly as much as Burnett's "Restaurant" occasionally was), but it's slickly produced, well-edited and still, often pretty entertaining. Trump makes for an entertaining host - although "You're fired" has become rather tired at this point, he still snaps at the constests pretty memorably at times and comes up with the occasional funny one-liner (although there are scenes in the boardroom throughout the first and second season where his dialogue has been obviously dubbed in - it's becoming annoying and hopefully will not happen in season 3.)
It's not classic television (I still think "Amazing Race" leads the "reality" pack), but it's fun and entertaining. It's also certainly better than its imitators and parodies, including fellow billionaire Richard Branson's disasterous "Rebel Billionaire", which fizzled in the ratings.
The DVD set contains all of the episodes from the first season. Unfortunately, the episodes include a different song in the opening credits - one of the most cheesy, dated tunes I've ever heard. Hopefully, "Money" will be included with the openings for the season two episodes once they reach DVD.
VIDEO: "Apprentice" is presented by Universal in 1.33:1 full-frame, the show's original aspect ratio. The presentation is generally very good, with no real issues. Slickly filmed and operating in great locations around NYC, the show looks visually pleasing. Sharpness and detail remained first-rate, as the picture usually appeared about as crisp and clean as it did during the broadcast run.
Slight shimmering and some traces of pixelation were spotted during the presentation, but these issues weren't distracting. The elements used seemed to be in excellent shape, with no wear or damage. Colors remained bright and nicely saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Overall, the presentation was quite good, exceeding my expectations a bit.
SOUND: "Apprentice" is presented in 2.0 audio. The soundtrack is pretty unremarkable, but dialogue, music and environmental sounds are clear and crisp.
EXTRAS: The fifth disc contains the supplements, which are all fairly fluffy. We get a featurette that takes us through the sets, including footage of the suites and boardroom before they were finished. Burnett also shares some of his inspiration for creating the series. Trump (as well as Carolyn and George) provide career advice, while we also get audition tapes, additional interviews and deleted scenes. Also included on the disc is a music video for the awful title track, "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" and a preview for the second season. Commentary from some of the participants (the "Survivior" DVD commentaries are amusing) would have been nice, but they're not included.
Final Thoughts: I didn't care for "Apprentice" when it first aired, but after enjoying season 2, I came back to season 1 via this DVD release and found it more entertaining. Hopefully, the second season will hit DVD sometime around when the third season ends. Universal's DVD edition provides very good video quality, fine audio and a few okay supplements. Recommended.