'The Apprentice': Back to Mere Regular People

Donald Trump says he's giving the people what they want. After three seasons of Celebrity Apprentice, he's gone back to the Average Joe (and Jane) version of The Apprentice (NBC, Thursday, 10 p.m. ET).

"We have had so many requests from so many people because of the times, because obviously the country is not doing well, the economic times are not good," he told sheknows.com. "So many people wanted to see this show reflective of the current times, and that’s what we’ve done."

The 16 contestants have either lost a good job or haven't been able to find one (despite Ivy League diplomas and TV-ready good looks). In this promo, Trump asserts that there's nothing more American than a second chance. And he casts himself as the benevolent businessman who's willing to give it to them. Well, one of them, anyway: The winner gets to work at a Trump company for one year on a $250,000 salary. And project managers who win weekly challenges will get job interviews with the show's corporate sponsors, like Macy's and Phillips-Van Heusen. This could be helpful for some of the contestants, provided these companies are actually hiring.

This spin on the proceedings -- that job seeking is much harder now, and the stakes are higher -- might make the show more interesting to watch this season. I have just one quibble: The idea that Trump is being altruistic by producing this version of his TV show is… a little absurd, isn't it? The Apprentice is a business venture, like most everything Trump does. Has he changed course to help the common man? No -- he's got his next Celebrity Apprentice lined up for 2011. This Apprentice cast -- which no doubt includes the prerequisite villains, nice guys and sweet-seeming double timers -- isn't much different from the "regular" Apprentice casts of the past. We are in an economic ditch, so naturally these job seekers are more desperate than past contestants. If anything, Trump is using this desperation to help market his show.

Not to sound too cynical, but these days, I don't put much trust in Trump -- or any real estate exec/financial industry whiz. Weren't they the ones who got us into this economic mess in the first place? As far as I'm concerned, The Donald should just shut up and let us watch the show already.

Do you think Donald Trump is being altruistic with this version of The Apprentice?

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