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Playing the Trump 

Sixteen aspiring entrepreneurs claw their way into mogul’s good graces.

But that’s not the point.

What’s important is that “The Apprentice” is doing well for NBC on Wednesday nights. Which says a lot about the aspirations and interests of the 18-49 demographic that the peacock network treasures so much. They’re watching in droves (and I chose that metaphor carefully). The network says the program got the highest rating of any reality program on any network since May in that all-important audience segment (until the hugely successful premiere of “American Idol 3”). “The Apprentice” is also edging out “Survivor” in some areas, which must make Mark Burnett a happy man, since his company produces both shows.

The new 15-episode series focuses on 16 aspiring entrepreneurs, eight men and eight women. Not surprisingly, given his reputation, Trump pits the women against the men. Each week, he and two of his real-life associates give the two groups an assignment. The women’s group picked Protégé as their name and the men came up with Versa. Their tasks include selling lemonade on the streets, developing an advertising campaign and renovating an apartment. Each week, Trump fires a member of the losing team, who takes the elevator down “to the street” while the others return up “to the suite,” where they’re living communally.

The contestants on the series, some of whom have M.B.A.s and some of whom never went to college, are about as likeable as you’d expect aspiring entrepreneurs to be. “Grasping” is the word that first comes to mind. The payoff for the winner will be a year as the head of one of Trump’s companies – a minor one, no doubt – at a quarter-million-dollar salary.

There is a downside, though.

The winner will have to work for Trump. S



“The Apprentice” airs Wednesday nights at 8 on NBC-TV. But check your listings: The network has been playing scheduling games with the first several episodes, starting them at different times.
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