Gary Susman
December 20, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Congratulations to you if you made it through all three hours of the marathon finale of The Apprentice on Thursday. You join a few other hardy souls in that accomplishment; 17 million watched Kelly Perdew’s victory, according to Nielsen. That’s about a 40 percent drop from the 28 million who watched Bill Rancic’s win during the first-season finale last spring. In fact, the show’s ratings overall were down this season, averaging 15.3 million, compared to 20.7 million the first season. The slide is worrisome, not just for NBC, but for Donald Trump; if The Apprentice is canceled, how will he earn a living?

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