15 years ago today: The Apprentice premiered and turned Donald Trump into a reality TV sensation
Mark Burnett's Survivor-like take on business launched on Jan. 8, 2004. The first season delivered big ratings and tons of media coverage, transforming Trump into a national figure of business success, even though he was coming off of bankruptcy and failed businesses. "Watching the premiere episode back again — NBC isn’t streaming the episodes in any official capacity, as you might imagine, but a YouTube search yields surprisingly flush results — it’s surreal that this man with his horribly awkward speaking patterns and monstrously tacky gold-plated Manhattan penthouse apartment would end up elected president in a dozen years," says Joe Reid. "Then again, it’s surreal now to imagine that. But you can see where, right from the break, The Apprentice gets to the work of smoothing out Trump’s past — the infidelities, the tabloid scandals, the history of racism, even the bankruptcies are papered over as more generic tough times — so that the incoming 16 contestants can more freely idolize his wealth and grovel at his feet."
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