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maryann johanson | takeaway only

The Apprentice: The Complete First Season (review)

It’s hard to conceive of the alternate universe in which “reality TV” hit The Apprentice approaches actual reality. Like a Mafia don drunk on his own power, Donald Trump — holding court from a would-be intimidating oversize executive chair in an underlit conference room and, hand to God, referring to himself as “The Donald” — lords over sixteen pathetic, desperate souls who’ll lie, cheat, backstab, and be seen in the presence of Trump’s truly terrifying combover for the chance to, well, continue doing all those things as a grossly overpaid Trump employee. “This isn’t a game,” The Donald snaps, “this is a 13-week job interview.” Except, of course, it is a game, a series of absurd obstacles set before the contestants in an artificial environment — these people all live together for the duration of the 15-episode “interview” in a suite in Trump Tower, like characters in some ridiculous sitcom — all of it coming off as stagey and scripted: the ensemble is either playing for the cameras or the whole shebang is in fact staged and scripted. It’s all sort of oily and leaves a bad taste in your mouth, as perhaps it’s meant to; this can only have been intended as a sop for ordinary-schmoe TV audiences, to fool them into thinking that the money and the power they don’t have isn’t worth having. And if the series as aired doesn’t do the job well enough, an entire disc worth of extras — featuring such horrors as more whinging and whining from the fired contestants to “career advice” from Trump’s scary capos — may put you off good-paying corporate jobs with benefits forever.

MPAA: not rated

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