Friday, September 17, 2010

The Apprentice Season 10

The 10th season of The Apprentice started last night by going back to basics with a little spin. This isn’t Celebrity Apprentice where C List celebrities battle it out for their favorite charities while trying to play as nice as possible. This season is about recession, resilience and reality.

All 16 hopefuls started off riding high on the wave of success before the recession sent them crashing into the shore. Now, the group of former attorneys, business owners, realtors are either unemployed or dramatically underemployed. Brandy was a corporate attorney making six-figures. Now she sells $2 cupcakes from a mobile van. Alex went from a successful engineering career to a new job driving a tow truck. David was a top level account manager. He married his high school sweetheart and fathered five kids. Now he’s out of work and his marriage is on the rocks. He’s on the show to reclaim his family.

And so it goes. These folks are the faces of the recession, victims of the downturn. On any other show, we would have spent at least 30 minutes of the two hour running time on sob stories. There would have been tears. Slow, thoughtful music would have played to accent just how hard these hard luck stories were .The goal would have been to get us in the viewing audience to grab a tissue and dab an eye. In fact, I was scared of that happening based on the tear-jerking promos they had released. But this is The Apprentice and Donald wasn’t having all that. We heard enough of their stories to see where the contestant had come from but that was it. Donald told them that this was the opportunity to turn things around and with that the teams were divided into men versus women.

Their first assignment: choose a team name and pick the first project manager (the one most likely to get fired if they lose the challenge). The guys started out looking to mythology for inspiration, thinking of the Phoenix rising from the ashes. They eventually settled on Octane. Once that was done, they quickly picked Gene (who didn’t volunteer), the unemployed former military man and financial advisor. At 46, he’s the elder statesman of the group.

The women bounce around a few names, including Phoenix but settle on Fortitude because it means strength. The project manager bit is settled quickly when Nicole a 27-year old attorney and former Miss Los Angeles nominated herself. When no one objected, Nicole felt she had won her first victory, saying, “[This is probably] the easiest thing I’ll probably ever do on The Apprentice.”

With team names picked and project managers assigned, the first challenge was given. They were supposed to take an empty space and turn it into a modern office.

Since this is getting long, let me summarize. Nicole took managing by consensus to a new level (and a new low) asking for input on every little thing and not ever really making a decision (or doing any work). Tyana, a former real estate agent (and the current Miss Cougar California) offered her expertise on staging and designing the office space, but Nicole wasn’t having it. She questioned Tyana’s sense of style because she was wearing a ‘questionable’ polka dot dress (okay…).

Over at Octane, Gene didn’t really have a clue what to do… but that didn’t stop him from barking orders (it was easy to see him as a military man). Their worst moment came when The Donald arrived and two of the crew members slipped on the rug that none of the guys had the time to tape down.

In the boardroom, The Donald told the truth. This challenge would be tough for him because he didn’t like either space. As they showed both spaces on the screen, it became obvious why. Octane’s space was done in a myriad of Crayola crayon colors. I expected a playroom, snacks and nap time in the early afternoon. Fortitude’s space was snooze-inducing and not modern at all. They even had an old portrait of some old dude in the executive space. How is that modern?

Since this is The Apprentice and not the Celebrity Apprentice, it didn’t take long for the gloves to come off. Gene complimented David for his work ethic. So you’d think David would return the favor but he didn’t like Gene’s style and he said so. Clint, a former CPA and real estate attorney from deep in the heart of Texas, came to the boardroom without a tie, which didn’t get past The Donald. Yet despite all of that, the men managed to pull off the win, leaving the ladies in the board room.

The girls however were chomping at the bit to take down Nicole. Mahsa, a 29 year old ADA from Brooklyn, brought the New York attitude to the boardroom. She exuberantly threw Nicole under the bus, backed it up, ran over her again and then put it in gear and flattened her a third time. None of the other ladies came to her defense and surprisingly, Nicole didn’t come to her own defense. Of course, The Donald couldn’t stand for that and Nicole became the first Apprentice to be fired.

Little did she know when she called become project manager “the easiest thing I’ll probably ever do on The Apprentice,” that it would be just about the only thing she’d do on The Apprentice.

These people are hungry. This season of The Apprentice promises to be a scrappy good time.

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