Audiences fired up by 'Apprentice'

— While other American CEOs make headlines with layoffs and legal woes, Donald Trump is reveling in the spectacular success of "The Apprentice."

Even viewers who turn up their noses at other reality series find something intriguing about the show, which is down to the final four contestants.

"I have 'You're fired!' down pat, and that little hand gesture, how his hand flicks out," said Mike Lyon, 60, a Southern California property owner and manager. "Like it or not, this guy has made it. And some of this stuff that he's preaching, I figure it's part of his business acumen."

That sounds about right to Trump, No. 205 on Forbes magazine's list of the very rich with $2.5 billion.

"What I do is I build great buildings that are very, very successful. I'm worth $6 billion and people, maybe they can't relate to that, but they want to do that and be that," Trump told The Associated Press.

"I think that's one of the reasons the show itself is so successful," said Trump, whose unfettered expressions of ego and excess seem only to increase his public stock.

Like a business-suited Elvis, Trump retains his star quality through fat and lean times.

"I thought Trump was going to stink it all up but the cheese factor he brings to it, this kind of über-boss dorkishness, is just perfect for the show. And he's obviously having such a grand old time doing it," said Robert Thompson, head of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.


AP Photo

Donald Trump, center background, and his aides, George Ross, background left, and Carolyn Kepchar, background right, face candidates for the job of "The Apprentice." Trump is reveling in the spectacular success of NBC's reality show, which got nearly 23 million viewers in the most recent ratings.

"The Apprentice" is down to finalists Amy Henry of Austin, Texas; Kwame Jackson of New York; Nick Warnock of Los Angeles and Bill Rancic of Chicago. The series ends April 15 when Trump will announce who will get to work for him.

Trump doesn't take complete credit for the show's success. "Viewers like the people on the show, they like the magnificence of New York City and the unattractiveness at the same time," Trump said.

And there's series creator Mark Burnett, the reality mogul ("Survivor") whom Trump calls "a real visionary."

"Mark Burnett and company are really the masters of the art form," agrees Thompson. Besides coming up with a workplace concept instantly familiar to viewers, "The Apprentice" is another well-cast Burnett show.

"When you're asking people to write their own dialogue, be their own acting coaches, casting is everything," said Thompson. "Omarosa didn't happen accidentally."

That's the imperious Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, whose scheming alienated fellow contestants and entertained viewers. Her martyrdom after a brush with falling plaster was an instant reality TV classic. She makes a return appearance on Thursday's show.


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