You're Tired!

Kevin Allen

This wasn't the first time The Apprentice humiliated itself in regard to Allen. There was also a howling blunder in an earlier episode in which, during a contest, Allen had to stand in front of a subway entrance with a box of overpriced M&M candy bars and try to hawk them to passersby. Could the show's producers really be so invested in their relentlessly touristy, penthouse-suites-and-'copter-rides version of New York that they've never done anything as exotic as, say, taking the subway to work? If they had, they would have known what real New Yorkers — the kind who live in the city, not above it — recognized instantly, that the show was playing into a Gotham-specific cultural stereotype. A young black man selling brand-name candy (who knows, maybe even for a school charity!) is a sight familiar to every New York commuter, and one that plays right into a lot of white urbanites' keep-moving-this-must-be-a-scam rules of disengagement. Some basic knowledge of actual (as opposed to Trumpian) New York might have spared everyone this groaner of a moment, in which everyone seemed utterly bewildered that Allen was failing as a salesmen. No wonder he lists, among his favorite books, one called Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?

Of course, one can argue that credibility may be too much to ask for from the reality TV genre. After all, nobody picks on Survivor for being more about group dynamics than about actual jungle-warfare skills. Then again, Jeff Probst doesn't try to pass himself off as Indiana Jones. What's so maddening about The Apprentice isn't its dopiness so much as its arm-twisting insistence that Donald Trump is New York's answer to Bill Gates rather than a canny self-promoter whose most enduring talent seems to be coating his name and his reputation in gold paint. It's no accident that the show's weekly competitions — involving dog washing, ice-cream vending, and so on —have less to do with management training than with selling crap to strangers. That may be good background for a handful of management jobs — network entertainment chief is one that comes to mind, selling luxury real estate in an overheated market is another — but climbing the executive ladder? Not really. If you want to know how to succeed in business, just watch 10 seconds of Carolyn Kepcher blinking and nodding sagely in considered affirmation of her boss' decisions. And then, please, change the channel.

Originally posted Dec 20, 2004 Published in issue #798 Dec 24, 2004 Order article reprints
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