NBC Re-Hires Original ‘Apprentice’

Celebs are cool, but the Donald wants to keep it real with unknowns

Last Updated: March 17, 2010 @ 4:13 PM

NBC is doubling down on the Donald, bringing back the regular people edition of "The Apprentice" — with a recessionary twist.

The network hasn’t aired a non-celebrity version of the Mark Burnett/Donald Trump series since early 2007. It’s considered reviving the original recipe of "Apprentice" for quite some time now, with NBC alternative chief Paul Telegdy dropping broad hints about the notion back in January, at the network’s portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour.

Now, it’s moving forward with a new take in which contestants hit hard by the bad economy get a chance to reverse their fortunes. Unless, of course, they find themselves fired all over again.

"’The Apprentice’ is a proven brand, and we believe its return is more relevant than ever since it will provide new hope for many Americans struggling in this difficult job market," Telegdy said. "Donald is going to be even more involved as he offers fantastic opportunities for the American worker, while the search for a quality job will resonate with contemporary viewers."

Trump himself has also made it clear he liked the idea of a civilian reboot, telling reporters in a conference call recently that he supported the idea and wanted to play a big role in any revival.

"I will be very involved if they bring back regular Apprentice, which a lot of people want that to happen," he said. "I’d be very involved in the casting again."

In typical Donald fashion, Trump believes his return to dealing with real people will be a real help to the U.S. enconomy.

"We’ve got to do something about the economy and this is a terrific way to provide jobs as well as business lessons along the way," he said. "NBC, Mark Burnett and I hope this economic downturn can begin a turnaround, and we’ll do our best with ‘The Apprentice’ to see that it starts happening. I’m proud to be putting people back to work, and to positively changing the psychology of America."

After a huge start in 2004 — more than 20 million people watched the season one fnale — "Apprentice" steadily saw its numbers drop, in part because NBC supersized the show, with two editions per year and one fall schedule that boasted both Donald and Martha Stewart editions. (No, really. They did that. Sigh.)

By the time the last real people edition aired in 2007, just 7.5 million people tuned in to see Trump’s final hire.

No word yet on when "Apprentice 2.0" will bow, but fall is a possibility.