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Entertainment Weekly

TV

Celebrity Apprentice ratings fall sharply without Trump

Luis Trinh/NBC

The much-hyped revamp of The New Celebrity Apprentice seems to have fired some of its viewers.

With Arnold Schwarzenegger taking over for President-elect Donald Trump in the boardroom, NBC’s two-hour premiere delivered 4.9 million viewers and a 1.3 rating among adults 18-49 on Monday night. That’s down a steep 44 percent in the ratings compared to the reality show’s previous opener back in 2015 (which was on a Sunday night vs. this season’s Monday debut). NBC points out, the show faced heavy competition for male viewers from ESPN’s Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl coverage.

Alternately, ratings could have fallen because of Trump — some Trump critics have sworn off watching the show given the president-elect’s ongoing attachment to the series (certainly the reactions to this story in my Twitter feed suggest this is the case). Online boycott proclamations over various issues don’t often seem to impact viewership numbers, however, and the idea of half a show’s rating vanishing because of a producing credit seems far-fetched to me. People watch a show because of what’s on the show. And Trump — regardless of how you feel about him — tends to boost the ratings of everything he’s on.

So: Was the two-year hiatus to blame for the decline? The sports competition on ESPN? The schedule change from Sunday to Monday? Trump’s producing credit? This cycle’s cast of competitors? Or Schwarzenegger taking over from Trump? To me, the most visible and impactful change is the host gig switching. But it could be one of the others or, most likely of all, some combination of all of the above. Ultimately it’s very tough to pinpoint an exact reason why millions choose to watch a show or not.

Regardless of the cause, The New Celebrity Apprentice was crushed by ABC’s The Bachelor premiere (6.6 million viewers, 2.1 rating), which was basically held steady with last year’s debut.

Trump retains a producing credit on the new Apprentice — as is contractually standard for founding executive producers, even if they leave the series —  yet he isn’t creatively involved in the show. NBC parted ways with Trump shortly after he announced his presidential campaign two years ago.

NBC introduced some changes to the format, such as moving the show from New York to Los Angeles and replacing Trump’s limo with Arnold’s “choppa.”

Schwarzenegger unveiled his new contestant-dismissing catchphrase, which is basically “you’re terminated” followed by a line from one of his other iconic films. Our writer Dalton Ross called Schwarzenegger “a little stiff at first… what I didn’t like was the way he kept letting people off the hook when he would ask them pointed questions about who messed up or who should be fired… He was better in the second hour, however, which finally culminated with him basically doing an impersonation of Hanz and Franz impersonating a ‘girly man’ impersonating Snooki crumbling about stepping outside of her comfort zone. I rewatched that on a loop about 50 times and I still honestly couldn’t tell you what the hell he was saying or doing here. But I still loved it. More of that, please. Nonsensical rambling is a hallmark of every great Celebrity Apprentice.” For full details, see Ross’ recap of the premiere here.

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