The new season of ''The Apprentice'' features a couple of foreigners but otherwise is the same old comfy, boring show

”The Apprentice”: Back to the boardroom

Good evening, my ducklings, and welcome back to The Apprentice! Oh, how I’ve missed this: the tasks, the boardrooms, the contestants with a shaky grasp of the English language (and those are the ones who are actually from here)….Aw, what can I say? I’m fond of this crappy little show.

At the risk of diverting some of Donald’s wrath away from Martha Stewart for a second, I think I’m gonna go out on a limb and declare tonight’s episode the Dullest. Premiere. Ever. But who cares? It’s soothing, right? Everyone loves repetition. That’s how come babies like the Teletubbies.

So hey! Eighteen new contestants were chosen out of a million applicants. (A million!) They’re an attractive bunch, the 2006 Apprentici, and they’ve come from all over America and the world to figure out why Trump insists on drawing attention to his hair time and time again when it would be in everyone’s best interest to just stop looking at it altogether. We opened tonight with the Donald driving some sort of Mercedes DeLorean up to his jet, and I thought two things: (1) Trump can drive? and (2) Ooh! Perhaps he will hit 88 mph and send us all back to a time before last season’s finale when he tried to hire two people and it all went to hell and I got e-mails calling me a racist for hating on Randal! But alas, the car stayed in the present, and we met our new test subjects.

Here are the ones who stood out:

Allie Graduated at the top of her class from the University of Florida, which is something I can’t believe is all that hard to do, priorities being what they are at the University of Florida.

Sean British. Expect him to coast on that accent for four to five episodes.

Brent Invented his own diet and lost 110 pounds, and I’ll stop there before I get ugly.

Tarek Member of Mensa, a shady mind-control organization existing only to make us feel bad about ourselves. If you squint, looks like the new Ken doll.

Lenny His name is Lenny and…dear God, is he actually Russian? Helloooo, new favorite Apprentice of all time!

Red Not an Apprentice, but he flies blimps and looks like my dad, whose name is also Red. Yay, Red!

Oh, did we talk about the blimps? Okay, so after Allie and Tarek, the first project managers, picked teams — I love it when Mark Burnett rips himself off — Trump told them the first task would be to advertise the giant Wal-Mart-owned wholesale monster Sam’s Club on Goodyear blimps and try and sell as many Sam’s Club Plus memberships as they could in one day. This task perfectly illustrates this show’s slow drift away from the mean streets of Manhattan. I guess NBC figures the rest of the country doesn’t care to see which team can sell the most knishes down at Yonah Schimmel’s, and the box stores have enough money to sponsor entire reality-show episodes. Still, box stores = boring, pedestrian, and sort of tacky, and there was something that made me really uncomfortable tonight while watching these pretty, upwardly mobile rich kids sell credit cards to overweight retirees.

But this column is not a place for social commentary; it is a place to make fun of people, like poor portly Brent, who suggested haircuts as a way to get folks in the door, and when that suggestion was summarily ignored but then led his team — called Synergy, by the way — to brainstorm giving manicures and massages, his voice approached supersonic levels of indignation. Brent spent the rest of the episode in the blimp. Over on the other team — called Gold Rush, a name so stupid I am tempted to just start referring to them as the Women, like I did last year, but the team is co-ed and that would no doubt confuse many of you — Summer was assigned the job of calling restaurants to drum up business, made one phone call, got tired/frustrated/her brain started bleeding out through her ears, and quit. Summer also spent the rest of the episode in the blimp. Trump’s little nod to the people in the blimp was Today’s Message: ”Change the Team.” It was the shortest message of all time and basically just told me it was okay to stop talking to people I don’t like. Yay!

Anyhoo, Allie and Synergy had a good time giving people massages; Tarek and Goldenrod gave away duffel bags (which Tarek kept calling ”gift bags,” even though they were empty), and the footage was edited to show them doing kind of a horrible job. But when we got back to the boardroom, Synergy won by only three memberships, 43-40. As a reward, they got to go to the boringest lunch ever with Trump and listen to him attempt to discuss the genocide in Darfur while clearly spacing on the word Darfur.

Meanwhile, Goldfinger collectively decided Summer had to go, but this one kid named Lee — a scrawny little thing straight outta Brooklyn — had the guts to question Tarek’s leadership style. For this, he got threatened by Tarek, and then when he did it again, he got his ass hauled into the boardroom along with Summer and…Lenny! Who did nothing wrong! Except be Russian and spend his whole day in the blimp! Trump made a quick Siberia crack about this (Trump has clearly been spending too much time with the atlas lately), and I think I saw a little piece of Lenny’s soul die, but Lee and Lenny, they were not going down easy, and through giggling and making snide-smart comments at the right times, they managed to bring Trump to the brink of firing Tarek, but then Summer…Oh, Summer, how did Trump put it? She saved Tarek’s ass with her own stupidity. I didn’t write down exactly how it went, but I think the dialogue was something like this:

Trump: ”Tarek, you’re a freakin’ moron, and…”

Summer: ”Mr. Trump, can I just tell you the truth? I am really into truth.”

Trump: ”What the hell is wrong with you, woman? I was about to fire him! You’re a freakin’ moron. You’re fired.”

Trump’s final word on Summer was that she was the obvious person to fire at the end, and Carolyn mumbled, ”It was a little obvious before that.” This is because, refreshingly, Summer really was a freakin’ moron. I kiss her goodbye. And I kiss this season hello! Hello, season! You and your product placement and interchangeable cast members amuse me. We’ll just think of this as Monday Night Football without the athletic ability, how about that? Awesome.

What did you think? Are you happy to see the show back, or do you wish the hiatus had been longer? Was Summer’s firing unfair? And is Brett going to be booted in his first trip to the boardroom, regardless of how he does?

The Apprentice
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