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10 March 2006

Well, I discovered that I made a big mistake when The Apprentice was on hiatus.  I started watching Project Runway

The Apprentice is back on the air and episode two of the new season aired Monday night.  This was my first real "reality show" and I've eagerly watched all of the previous seasons through to completion (still want to know the story behind Bill Rancic, the first Apprentice, since he seems to be the only one who has stuck around and is still at The Donald's side, while you never hear about any of the other winners.)

So anyway, I eagerly tuned in the first episode of the new season and found the usual assortment of "lookers" and "characters," the usual assortment of know-it-alls, and the chief know-it-all, Donald Trump.

The first episode didn't really grab me the way it has in the past, but I don't think I realized exactly why until this week.

Brent.jpg (6067 bytes)This season's "character" is Brent, who does not have the GQ look of the other men in the competition, but who has a lot of enthusiasm and ideas.

Now, I realize that this show is edited for best viewer content, so we never know exactly what goes on, but there has been a "get Brent" mentality among everyone on his team from day one, when he was one of the last two chosen while all the "gorgeous people" were chosen first--at that time nobody knew anything about anybody except how they looked.   I identified with Brent.  I was always the last chosen for anything too.

Time and again, I've seen Brent attempt to offer ideas, only to have people shut him out, ignore him, shout him down.  In the first episode he was put up in a blimp to get him out of the way.   In this episode he had problems with a female contestant and rather than take the time of everyone on the team, he met with her outside of the office to discuss their differences.  When they returned, she accused him of "threatening" her because he apparently shook his finger in her face.

This woman is a public defender and Brent is an attorney himself, and the thought of his intimidating her with threats defies any logical believability.  Yet, everyone rallied to her defense and in the Boardroom, it was a real "get Brent out" session.  (To Trump's [slight] credit, he ended up firing the woman and the project manager and Brent lives another week.)

I've seen this before.   The odd looking character becomes the one everybody loves to hate, while all the glamor candidates bond together.  I never realized before how much I hated that mentality until I watched Project Runway.

I never realized how nasty Trump can be until I watched Project Runway

There have been personality conflicts on Project Runway to be sure, but the designers who are voted "out" each week leave with a kiss from Heidi Klum, sad looks from the judges, hugs (and sometimes even tears) from their fellow competitors, and as they leave, they wish the others well.  It's just a more civilized show.

daniel.jpg (8008 bytes)I'm thinking of the one task where they were supposed to work as a team.  Daniel Franco's team (himself as head designer, and two women who worked with him) lost the competition.  When Daniel was asked which of the two women should be let go, he said that he had never seen two people work so hard without complaint and that if anybody should be let go, it should be him.  That was real class and made me feel good about the whole competition.

Where Trump has George and Carolyn to be "his eyes and ears," Project Runway has Tim Gunn, who becomes a real mentor to the designers, offering helpful suggestions and really seeming to truly care about them.  George and Carolyn look like overlords taking notes and ready to bring back all the dirt to Trump.

In discussing the failings of the losing person or teams, Heidi Klum can deliver bad news without seeming to be twisting the knife (even though she has been rather harsh at times).  In the end, she seems genuinely sorry to see the next person go and sends them off with a kiss and an auf wiedersehen

Trump lays into the losing team as a bunch of losers, even if the difference between the two teams is very small.   I remember one team having lost by like 3 points and Trump acting like they were talentless people who had totally botched the project, hammering away at the project manager:  "You lost!  Why did you lose?  What did you do wrong?"  The two teams were so close to even that this approach seemed overkill to me, on this particular project.

In contrast, in the finale of Project Runway, the judges had a difficult time choosing and told the contestants that they hated to have to make a choice since they were all so talented.

Somehow at the end of the day, you feel a little sad to see someone leave the Project Runway team, but at the end of The Apprentice you pretty much hate everybody for how cruel and heartless they have all been to each other, from Trump down to the last fired candidate.

I suppose I'll stick with this season's Apprentice, but the thrill is rapidly fading.  I'm already looking forward to the next season of Project Runway.

A very scary story in this "land of the free" in 2006.


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