Can ''The Apprentice'' make a comeback? -- NBC revives talks to bring the Donald back to the boardroom

By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated July 13, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Donald Trump may be fired no more. Industry sources confirm that the mogul is in talks with NBC to bring back his all-but-canceled Apprentice for a seventh season. At press time, no official deal had been announced, but sources say it’s looking very promising that the Mark Burnett-produced reality series will return for at least one more installment in early 2008. It seemed as though the show — whose audience last season plummeted to 7.1 million — had gone to the great boardroom in the sky when the network didn’t include it in its fall schedule. So why would NBC’s new entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman, who took over in late May, make reviving a tired reality franchise one of his first orders of business? The move might make surprisingly good business sense: Even at its ratings low point, The Apprentice brought in more viewers than returning critical faves like Friday Night Lights and Scrubs. The series also fits in with NBC’s goal to fill parts of its schedule with cheaper reality shows, and it provides ample opportunities for gratuitous (and lucrative) product placement. Plus, it’s a proven brand, however faded. ”It’s not going to get the blockbuster ratings it used to,” says industry analyst Steve Sternberg of MAGNA Global Media Research, ”but most [new] reality shows don’t work.” One source says that to sweeten the deal, Burnett is mulling ”a high-profile twist that could resurrect the entire franchise” for its ’08 return. We hear Rosie O’Donnell’s free.

Trump Tally Apprentice ratings, season by season

Season 1 (2004) 20.7*

Season 2 (2004) 16.1

Season 3 (2005) 14

Season 4 (2005) 11

Season 5 (2006) 9.6

Season 6 (2007) 7.1

*Viewership in millions

The Apprentice

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