Friday, December 17, 2004

DB on TV: The Apprentice II Finals

Say what you want about reality television, but I’ve always been a sucker for human drama, though often grudgingly when it’s overly scripted, contrived, and produced. What makes for the best and most interesting reality shows is when there is something real at stake. And I’m not talking about watching someone receive a red rose and a chance at true romance with a fetching semi-stranger.

I’m talking about shows where the players are driven, passionate, and most of all, desperately want to win. Over the last few months, the shows that most qualify are The Apprentice 2 and the Richard Branson-led The Rebel Billionaire.

The Apprentice 2, while losing a degree of its novelty and edge from the exciting first season, still managed to deliver high stakes, dramatic moments, and the necessary array of certifiable lunatics and loopy personalities to keep you tuned in every week.

The major downfall of the second season was that Donald Trump appeared to go for the surprise maneuver rather than the smart decision in the board room on several occasions. Perhaps impulsive might be the better word than surprise, but I would have to dig underneath the famous hair helmet / Andy Capp’s cap to know for sure. Speaking of Andy, I felt that the young Harvard grad’s ousting just before the Final Four round was the worst decision of the season. It was another example that screaming in the board room could stave off firing rather than effective leadership or performance shown during tasks. Another baffling decision was the ouster of the promising-looking Bradford early on due to his “rash” decision to wave his immunity that week in bold defense of his performance during his team’s losing effort.

It was further indication, as seen in Season One, that Trump in the end does not want someone like himself (brash, extreme risk taker, gruff) but a competent yes-man who is tough and competent but will likely never bedazzle you (or outshine the strangely haired head honcho). Enter Bill Rancic and now Kelly Perdew, the Season Two winner.

Another trying part of Season Two was the upgraded role of product endorsements and forays into Donald Trump: The Commercial (as if The Apprentice didn’t already advertise Donald Trump: The Brand enough) as with the addition of thinly veiled skits in which Trump “checks up” on his various properties before doling out the new task of the week.

Still, it was a fun ride and gratifying to see Kelly beat out the leadership-shirking, eavesdropper lurking Jennifer M. in tonight’s finale. I’ll still be on board for the kick-off of Season Three next month, where a new twist has a team of the “book smart” facing off against a team of the “street smart.”

Human drama. Gotta love it.

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