NBC holds Trump card

Are you ready for "Survivor" in suits? Created by Mark Burnett, the man behind "The Restaurant" and "Survivor," "The Apprentice" (7:30 p.m., NBC) pits 16 highly motivated go-getters with varying degrees of education and experience to vie for a job with real estate mogul Donald Trump. Only one will emerge as president of one of Trump's many companies.

In the first episode, The Donald divides the participants into two competitive teams, the boys vs. the girls. Their first job is to come up with a name for themselves. You know the guys are in trouble when they call their team Versacorp, which sounds like an over-the-counter antihistamine. The women opt for a glossier moniker: Protege.

The teams are then given $250 and told to maximize profits while selling lemonade on the streets of Manhattan. The guys start off strong, establishing a management hierarchy while spouting buzzwords and taking time out for spirited high-fives. The gals quickly descend into emotional chaos and catty backbiting before using some of their natural charms to enhance their marketing campaign. It would be unfair to reveal who wins the competition, but it's safe to say that it's not even close. At the end of the show, the losing team must face The Donald in The Boardroom where he will do The Firing of one player.

Like everything he does, Trump dominates "The Apprentice." He calls New York "my city" as if he owns it. Clearly scarred by his brush with bankruptcy, he describes his comeback with grammar-be-damned gusto: "I fought back and I won, bigly!" Mr. Bigly goes on to show off his young, model girlfriend and a gaudy, gilded apartment that looks like it was designed by Saddam Hussein's interior decorator. If you can get past The Donald and stop staring at the tuft of roadkill he calls a hairpiece, "The Apprentice" is a lot of fun. It's the perfect guilty pleasure for our business-besotted society.

Tonight's other highlights

  • A soldier's second chance on "Tru Calling" (7 p.m., Fox).
  • Jane Kokan goes undercover in the documentary "Forbidden Iran" on "Frontline" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) to show that the country's regime uses torture and execution to stifle student protest.
  • Carter causes commotion when he returns from Africa with new love, Makemba (guest star Thandie Newton), on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).
  • Scheduled on "PrimeTime" (9 p.m., ABC): baseball legend Pete Rose discusses his controversial new book.

Late night

Nathan Lane and Ruben Studdard appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno hosts Madonna, Jason Dahmer and Nelly Furtado on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).


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