Monday, December 19, 2005


"The Apprentice" Wars

I thought the "outrage" over The Apprentice winner Randal Pinkett declining to share the honor with runner-up Rebecca was just another online "sturm and drang" signifying nothing.

Yeah, the MSNBC "reality" critic, Andy Dehnart,
stamped his feet and complained about "losing respect for Randal":

But then Randal, who’s perhaps played the game with more integrity than anyone else in four seasons of “The Apprentice,” and who earned the respect of basically every other candidate in the suite this season, surprised everyone.

“Mr. Trump, I firmly believe that this is ‘The Apprentice,’ that there is one and only one apprentice, and if you’re going to hire someone tonight, it should be one,” Randal said. “It’s not ‘The Apprenti,’ it’s ‘The Apprentice.’”

For some reason, this impossibly lame and aggressively selfish argument convinced Trump, who kind of shrugged and said, “Okay, I’m going to leave it at that then. I think I could have been convinced, but you feel that’s the way it should be, I’m going to leave it that way.”
("Lame and aggressively selfish"? Oh, please. Keep in mind that this is the second consecutive edition where Denhart concluded that Trump "should have hired both" finalists).

Yeah, some flakes decided to go to the trouble
to create a site.

But it's nothing short of stunning to see the show's
official Yahoo website go along with the BS. On Monday afternoon, visitors to the site could participate in a poll asking whether Trump should have "Hired Randal", "Hired Rebecca", "Hired Both", or "Fired Randal For Not Hiring Rebecca"! (Keep in mind that Yahoo! was the sponsor for the pediatric AIDS benefit that Rebecca ran as her final task. Yahoo! execs asked Rebecca not to do any fundraising at the actual event. Her decision to go along with that arguably hurt her standing at the end.) That poll has now been replaced by a simple one saying,

If you were Mr. Trump, who would you hire based solely on the final task?
Both candidates
View results without voting

(If anyone managed to capture the image of the earlier poll, please pass it along to me.)

If Trump had wanted to hire both candidates, he should have done so himself -- or asked both candidates the question before the final decision. To force an ex post facto choice on the winner is a cop-out of immense proportions. How many other reality shows have pulled something like that? Randal followed the rules as they have been played over three previous editions.

And then the official site goes along with a campaign to villify someone who won fair and square -- a campaign that, frankly, has some rather disturbing racial connotations. No, I don't make those statements cavalierly. But read the lengthy comment thread at and decide for yourself.

Ken Wheaton captured the dynamics of Randal's decision perfectly:

You don't get ahead in top organizations by being nice. You get ahead by knowing when to be an asshole and when to be nice. And when do you play the nice card--when it will get you something (either more loyalty, more business or more money). And keep in mind the decision was further complicated--not made easier--by the fact that this was a game show.

In Randal's spot I would have done the same thing precisely because it could have been a trick. Trump COULD have said, "My apprentice needs the confidence to take the prize when it's his to take. And Randall, you're passing up a clear chance at victory. That might work on the playground, but this is business. Randall. You're fired. Go start a blog."
In Season Two, Trump chose Army vet and entrepreneur Kelly Perdew over tough lawyer Jennifer Massey. The selection wasn't so bad, but the long drawn out finale was an embarrassment. Trump allowed Massey -- who had competed tough but honorably -- to be trashed by various execs and studio audience members. The margin of qualifications and project-manager "wins" between Massey and Perdew was nowhere near that of Randal and Rebecca.

But did Trump ask Kelly if Jennifer should be hired? Of course not, he just allowed her to be completely humiliated in front of millions of people. Yet, now he pulls this on Randal -- and the official site participates in a retroactive smearing of Randal's reputation?

Reprehensible, even by reality-show "standards."

UPDATE: The Yahoo poll with the "fire Randal for not hiring Rebecca" results.

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