– By Cori Linder
“Not Your Average Hamburger” – The APPRENTICE: Episode 1
Take some expensive meat, slop on 18 ambitious (and a few eclectic!) young candidates, add a billionaire, put it next to a Burger King point-of-sale machine, and you have yourself the 90-minute premiere of this season’s “The Apprentice.”
Now, many of you might be asking how the third season differs from that of its predecessors. Simply put, not much. Of course, the biggest change is that Mr. Trump has pitted the “Book Smarts” group against the “Street Smarts” group in the battle of education versus experience. But, little else seems to have changed: the teams live together in a posh suite, they participate in challenges, the losing team has to face the boardroom, George and Carolyn continue to delight in their positions as the Trump cronies, and the Donald still has his infamous hairstyle (one would think an upcoming wedding would inspire a new flip of the bangs). There are, however, a few subtle changes in the show, such as the addition of “The Music Man” played by Danny, 39, a “book smarts” team member, who seems to loosen up some of the stiffs.
Rather than reading through all the candidate bios, let us plunge right into the events of the show, for as you should know by now, the Trump card has a way of making the most educated and eloquent person turn into a blubbering fool in the Donald’s presence.
In case anybody was unaware of his past glory, Mr. Trump began the show reminding us that we “know everything about [him]” and that he is the “largest real estate developer in New York by far.” For some reason, these comments seem less arrogant and more endearing. Perhaps, it is the way he robotically reads them off the teleprompter.
Entering the Boardroom:
One by one, suitcase in hand, enters the candidates into the waiting room. At this point, they silently size each other up, having no idea they will soon be divided by education level. They all seem to be extensions of Season Two’s cast: Perfect hair, nice suits, great postures… But then strolls in Danny in his “leisure suit” and carrying a guitar, and it is at this point, when the show feels a bit more fun.
Once again, we join the boardroom. Meet George and Carolyn, the “eyes and ears” of Mr. Trump. Is it just me, or do they both look younger, with whiter teeth? Fame has a way of doing that to people.
This season’s twist: Although each group has about the same IQ and age, half of them have only high-school diplomas while the others have college degrees. Interestingly, it’s the high-school group that makes more than three times the income of the other group! (Many are probably still paying off their college debt.) Mr. Trump declares that it is his mission to find out if practical experience is more important than academic knowledge. They learn that like last season, the project manager on the winning team has immunity during the next challenge.
Back at the Suite:
The suite (as Mr. Trump affectionately refers to as “hell”) is beautiful…and pink. The candidates celebrate, divide themselves into groups, and then determine their team name. Already there is a rival brewing between the two groups. But “Street Smart” John, 32, is confident that they will win because they “have nothing to lose.” It seems that pride and self-respect don’t matter much in this case. John further points out that he read Mr. Trump’s book and that sometimes “attitude and experience” surpass education.
You know you have an interesting group when Danny—the comic relief and corporate cheerleader—declares to the “Book Smarts” team that he wants to be the CMO (Chief Morale Officer). “Unbelievable!” he shouts and soon breaks out in song.
One note about the “Book Smarts” team: Two of the candidates look very similar to certain celebrities:
– Bren: A cross between Danny Bonaduce (Partridge family) and the little red-haired, bow-tie boy in the “Problem Child” movie
– Stephanie: A modern-day Marcia Brady
After songs and rah-rah’s, the “Book Smarts” team (Danny, Stephanie, Verna, Kendra, Erin, Michael, Todd, Bren, and Alex) decides on the name: “Magna.” “Unbelievable!” they cheer again. Why are they saying this?!!
The “Street Smarts” team (Chris, Craig, John, Brian, Tana, Tara, Kirsten, Audrey, Angie) decides on the name: “Net Worth.”
Next comes the challenge: Each team will take over a Burger King restaurant in New York and launch a new hamburger. First, they need to pick from one of the six new hamburgers, create a name for it, market it, and manage the restaurant. The team that earns the most revenue wins the challenge.
NET WORTH Project Manager – Always one to speak first, John volunteers to be the project manager because he’s basically done everything with regards to restaurant management. There’s something about the way he nonchalantly handles his tie and talks down to his students that tells me he has studied this game from the inside out and would be the perfect person to write an “Apprentice For Dummies” book.
MAGNA’s Project Manager – Because he had run a restaurant before, Todd becomes the project manager. Already, this team is excited to look at this challenge from a deep analytical perspective. Danny and Marcia…oops, Stephanie…volunteer to do the marketing and promotion. Another cheer of “unbelievable!”
NET WORTH Strategy – They decide to market the “Western Angus” burger. John delegates the tasks, and the group decides to offer a vacation trip to Las Vegas. Brian joins the ladies to purchase cowboy attire and even negotiates a free Viking hat. “Now that’s negotiation, baby!” he says.
They meet with the Burger King Representative. Purchasing the Las Vegas tickets turns into a bit of a fiasco, however, when Tana and Kristen venture into a dirty apartment and encounter a dog with an incontinence problem.
All the ladies effortlessly work the registers and use their charm and enthusiasm to sell burgers.
MAGNA Strategy – They decide to market the “3 Cheese” Burger because Verna, 31, insists that she has “an expertise in this area” because “fast food is her favorite food.” Todd cuts Danny and Stephanie from the group so that they can “go be creative” and work out marketing and advertising ideas. He then appoints Alex as restaurant manager who puts two people on the point-of-sale (POS) stations and the rest on sandwich-making. Todd sits in the booth studying his notes (while continually yelling out praises) and the other members train on the registers. Where’s Todd’s management? Alex asks.
Meanwhile, when discussing the campaign with the Burger King representative, Danny and Stephanie are almost clueless with regards to marketing strategy. At this point, Danny’s humor, along with his guitar, disappears.
More people continue to stream into Burger King, but the Magna team only has two people operating the POS registers. Because Todd did not participate in the training, he is mostly useless.
The promotional scheme turns into a disaster, and Danny presents himself as a homeless street performer.
In the Boardroom:
George announces that Magna sold 139 units of their item for a total $553.22. Carolyn said that Net Worth sold 182 for a total $596.96. Net Worth WINS! As their reward, they join Mr. Trump (and his fiancé) in the wine cellar of the 21 Club.
The Magna team must face the boardroom. Who will be fired? Danny or Todd? With Carolyn’s comments that the “promotion was horrific” and that she “had never seen a worse promotion ever,” one would assume that Danny would be asked to leave. However, team member Kendra made an important point that Danny was not the reason the team failed and that it was Todd’s lack of leadership skills that led to their downfall. Mr. Trump agreed and fired Todd.
It would be interesting to find out how much Mr. Trump’s decisions are based on the show’s ratings. For example, is he more prone to keep candidates on the show longer if they cause more drama? Also, maybe next season, NBC could mix things up. Perhaps, Mr. Trump could force the candidates out of their nice suite and make them live in something more challenging.
Until next time…
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