The pool of contestants isn't the only thing shrinking on The Apprentice. So is the season finale, which is facing a running-time cutback of 67 percent. Mindful of how fans snored through last season's three-hour finale, Donald Trump announced Tuesday that this season's wrap-up will be a trim, hour-long episode, to be broadcast live from New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on May 19.
''I was very insistent on having a one-hour finale this season,'' Trump said in a statement. ''Viewers want the live boardroom and they want to witness the excitement of the hiring. And that will be our focus this season the completion of the task and the final live boardroom showdown.''
Also downsizing that night will be the cast of ER. Following The Apprentice on NBC will be the season finale of the medical drama, marking the final appearance of original cast member Noah Wyle as a series regular, though he'll continue to pop up occasionally on the show.
In other Apprentice news, Trump announced that he's given first-season winner Bill Rancic a one-year contract extension. In addition to overseeing Trump's Chicago skyscraper construction project, Rancic will assist in development of other Trump properties across North America, and he'll sit in on boardroom sessions on Season 4 of Apprentice when regulars Carolyn Kepcher and George Ross are away on business. ''He's so talented that I thought he might want to go out on his own and make millions,'' Trump said of Rancic. ''We're lucky to have him back for another year and I can rest assured that my Chicago project is in the best of hands.''
Meanwhile, Season 3 winds down, with NBC promising that the candidate among the remaining six finalists who gets fired on Thursday's episode will break down in tears, softening even the heart of The Donald, who'll invite the firee to his side of the boardroom table for consolation. Like we haven't seen enough tears and tantrums this season.