Television

Who's The Boss?

Trump, Burnett, and NBC scuffle over who makes The Apprentice's bootee call

For each dramatic boot on The Apprentice (Bradford's early eviction) or each annoying, telegenic contestant who overstays her welcome (that's you, Omarosa), it would seem that producers are prodding Trump to make good TV—not to find the best job applicant. NBC would have you believe the same thing. A disclaimer that runs in the closing credits reads: ''Donald Trump and his advisors discussed possible elimination decisions with the producers and NBC, however Trump alone made all decisions regarding elimination.''

No way does Trump consult NBC, insists The Apprentice creator and executive producer Mark Burnett, who adds that he didn't even realize the disclaimer was still running. ''I don't want that there,'' he says, his voice rising. ''It pisses me off! NBC has made that up. I've told them from the beginning it's stupid, and it's their own weakness. They shouldn't have it there because there's no consultation, and all they're doing is causing questions. No one consults with Trump.''

Not even the executive producer? ''We have no idea what's gonna happen from the minute the boardroom starts,'' says Burnett, who also oversees CBS' Survivor. ''You should call Craig Plestis [NBC's senior VP of Alternative Programs and Development] and tell him Mark said he didn't even know it's still on the screen, and it's stupid, and it's NBC's fault.'' Although Plestis isn't talking—apparently, he doesn't feel the need to consult with anyone—the network issued the following statement: ''NBC includes standard disclaimers for its reality shows. Donald Trump, however, does make the final decision each week over who gets fired.''

For his part, Trump blames some legal eagles. ''It's totally unnecessary,'' he says. ''But probably some lawyer somewhere deep in the bowels of our legal system said, 'Oh, you should have that.' The only one I have ever discussed a firing with is [Trump sidekicks] Carolyn or George.'' So, for now, the disclaimer stays and Burnett fumes. ''I'm mad now,'' he says. ''And anyway, why would anyone think that Donald Trump would listen to me about who he is gonna hire?'' Um, because that's what the network keeps telling us.

Originally posted Nov 26, 2004 Published in issue #794 Nov 26, 2004 Order article reprints