Ivan's Blog

Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks

Friday, May 13, 2005
Television--- If you tuned into last night's episode of The Apprentice expecting to see the season finale, you were undoubtedly disappointed to find that NBC pulled the ultimate bait and switch. The network advertised all week long that this episode would feature "the final showdown" between the final two contestants, Kendra and Tana. Right up until the end, it seemed as though that would be the case.

The entire final task played out, the final two contestants had their say in the boardroom, the choice of who should be the winner was painfully obvious to the youngest children in the viewing audience, and it appeared that it was just a matter of moments before the "boardroom" would fall back as it did in the first season finale, revealing that the final boardroom was actually in front of a live studio audience and not in Trump Tower, and Trump would utter the words, "You're hired."

Then something strange happened. After the contestants were asked to leave so that Trump could get the "opinions" of the go-along-to-get-along George and Carolyn, the "Executive Producer" credits appeared on the screen, along with dramatic music and a fade to black. It was 9:54 PM, and the show was over. A commercial aired that said, "Stay tuned for scenes from next week's episode!" The Apprentice-related programming on next week's schedule at 9:00 PM is not an Apprentice reunion show of any kind, it's the real "season finale" that was advertised for this week. Talk about a bait and switch.

Besides the obvious factor of hurting the goodwill you've built up with the audience, next week's episode of The Apprentice may very well be the most anti-climactic season finale in the history of reality television. The way Kendra and Tana performed on the final task, the way the show's editors put a spotlight on Tana's numerous screw-ups, and the way everyone involved seemed to take notice of Tana's many screw-ups all combine to make it extremely obvious that Kendra is going to win. Much like the final three of this season where everyone knew Craig was getting fired, the right thing to do in this case was to make the final elimination itself similarly brief and to the point, not stretch it out to an entire hour.

There is going to be an hour-long boardroom next week where everyone knows damn well going into it who the winner is going to be. Trump & Co. are going to go through the motions, pretending that they don't know who they have chosen, just as they did in the first and second season finales, only in the first two seasons it wasn't this obvious. That's not just bait and switch, that's bad television. Mark Burnett himself is no genius, as his record includes two hit shows (Survivor and The Apprentice) and two absolute flops (The Restaurant and The Contender). Whoever decided at NBC or Mark Burnett Productions to format the final few episodes of this season in this manner should be fired.

As for what did air in this week's episode, it was clear that Tana couldn't handle the pressure while Kendra was more than prepared for it. Kendra inherited a bad sponsorship situation, where EA Sports was contractually set to be the only video game company with advertising on the main floor, and yet you also had Sony as a sponsor that had to be pleased. Kendra made sure that the basement was transformed overnight from a grungy wasteland to a spiffy-looking PlayStation destination, making the Sony representative's attitude go from annoyed and snippy to jubilant and pleasantly surprised.

On the other hand, Tana bungled just about everything from beginning to end in her "New York City 2012 Olympics Promotion" event. She was given three teammates of "questionable skill," just as Kendra was, but instead of embracing them and trying to get the most out of them as Kendra did, Tana immediately wanted to distance herself from the task, establishing from the get-go that any screw-ups were certainly not her fault.

It's one thing to think that in your mind, it's another thing to be as openly disrespectful of your employees in the way that Tana was. To actually refer to your employees as "The Three Stooges" to Carolyn shows not only a lack of professionalism, but a complete obliviousness of what professionalism is. It only got worse as Tana repeatedly made statements to sponsors, event coordinators, and executives on the floor of the event as it was taking place like, "Oh, that's a bad idea, I bet that came from Chris" and "Did you see how she's trying to tell the boss what to do? I just want to punch somebody in the face!"

In the case of Chris and clearing the track so the athletes could warm up, Chris actually got it right and Tana got it wrong, as Tana found out moments after openly disparaging Chris. But let's say it was a case where an employee screws something up and the boss has to come in and fix it, in front of key corporate partners or customers. You would ideally want to portray your employees in the best light possible, to give the appearance that you're running a smooth-sailing ship even if you're not, to make others look better in front of key partners so that your operation as a whole looks better.

It was clear from the very beginning that none of those things mattered to Tana. The most important thing to her was that whenever there was a screw-up, she made sure that everyone within a half-mile radius knew that it was not her fault, that she had nothing to do with it, that she was stuck with incompetent employees. She later said in the boardroom, "I didn't get to pick my employees, you know!" as if any new president of a company gets to choose whether they inherit great employees or whether they inherit incompetent employees.

Tana's three employees weren't the best you could get, but neither were Kendra's, and Kendra got the most out of them and actually bonded with them throughout the course of the task. While Kendra was hugging her teammates after the task was over and telling everyone how proud she was of them as several of them got teary-eyed , Tana actually said to the camera something to the effect of, "I'm going to let them go ahead and leave first because that's what a boss should do. They need to leave first so that they can feel like the little employees and I can feel like the boss." Apparently she wasn't kidding, as she actually crept up like a stalker to the exit door and made sure that she didn't start to approach her limo until her employees had pulled away in their own vehicles.

The nature of the relationship between Tana and her teammates was established very clearly on the morning of the event, when Tana tried to get everyone up early and went about it the wrong way. There's a way to do something like that without making people feel like they're smaller than you or inferior, but Tana said things like, "If you're not out of your room in five minutes and ready to go, the boss is going to be very grumpy all day long!" That's something you say to a five-year-old child who is on pace to be late for school; it's not something you say to employees who you want to work for you and have good morale.

One of the biggest screw-ups of the day for Tana's task was the horrible brochures that were printed up by Kristen and were almost handed out to all of the athletes. If you'll recall, Kristen tried to approach Tana to ask something about the brochures after she was put in charge of them, and Tana interrupted her with the response, "I don't want to hear about that, I'm doing bigger things here!" Kristen left the room feeling insulted and dejected, and after she left Tana actually whispered to the camera, "Get out, get out, I want her out of the room!"

The most hilarious screw-ups in Apprentice history involved Tana's handling of New York Governor George Pataki. As with any event where you've got a big-time VIP coming, especially a politician, you need to have it printed out line-by-line what that VIP is supposed to do during the day. One of Governor Pataki's assistants tried to explain this nicely to Tana, at which point she again deflected blame, saying that the printing department hadn't printed out the Governor's itinerary yet and it would "be done when it's ready."

Later, when Governor Pataki's assistant told Tana that the governor had arrived and needed to know what the event coordinators wanted him to be doing, Tana again said that the print-out with that information wasn't ready yet and it would be ready when it's ready. When the increasingly frustrated assistant said that the governor needs to know what he should be doing in the meantime, jaws across the country dropped when Tana actually said (I kid you not), "Oh, do you want me to have some coffee or doughnuts sent to him?" That's the kind of comment that could get you fired if you are the current president of a real company, much less a reality show contestant trying to become the president of a company.

Even more time passed with Governor Pataki just wandering around, without any word from Tana of what the event coordinators wanted him to be doing or where they wanted him to be going. When the governor's assistant approached Tana again and this said in a panicked voice, "The governor's just wandering around because he hasn't been told what he's supposed to be doing," Tana's response was, "That's okay!" When the exasperated assistant said, "No it's not," Tana again deflected blame and sarcastically snapped at him, "Oh, I'm sorry, what exactly can I do about that right now?"

I couldn't believe what I was seeing, and you better believe that Donald Trump would run off to Las Vegas and elope with Mark Cuban before he would ever hire someone with that kind of behavior to run one of his companies. With Tana turning in the worst performance in the history of Apprentice final tasks, all Kendra had to do in order to emerge as the clear winner was put in a semi-competent performance, and she did much more than that.

It was amazing to see Tana reveal all of her character flaws and crack under pressure because she performed so well for so many weeks during the course of the season... but all of those performances were with Kendra as a teammate. It wasn't clear for most of the season who the driving force was behind the successful duo of Kendra and Tana.

Sometimes it takes a successful duo being separated to reveal that one of them is largely incompetent when left to run the ship by themselves. It was definitely a Vince Russo and Vince McMahon situation, as Russo was the lead writer of WWE Raw during some of the best years in WWE's history with McMahon overseeing and editing his work, and then Russo failed spectacularly in everything he ever tried to do without McMahon in his years as a writer in WCW and TNA. The same scenario played out on this season of The Apprentice, as Kendra stepped up as even more of a star after being separated from Tana, while Tana fell apart in every way imaginable.