'The Apprentice': Donald Trump returns with the economy in mind
The new contenders include people downsized out of their jobs, as well as recent college graduates whose prospects seem bleak. Whether that makes Trump and his boardroom comrades -- his children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., as well as
"The economy has tanked," he says, "and we're really being reflective of what's happened. The first season of 'The Apprentice' was the No. 1 show on television for many evenings, and I think this is at least comparable to season one. It's very tough, yet it's very compassionate.
"We look at this differently than we did when the world was raging positively," Trump adds. "It's very bad out there. We have people who have no job and a wife and five kids. They're highly educated in many cases, and they're under great pressure."
That's why Trump has gone back to the original "Apprentice" premise for the first time since 2007, rather than do another "Celebrity Apprentice" (though there will be one in the spring).
"We did really well with the regular 'Apprentice,' " Trump notes, "then we got terrific ratings on 'The Celebrity Apprentice' and did three of those, but I've gotten so many letters from people asking me to bring back the regular 'Apprentice.'
"The times we're in are interesting. Unemployment has hit 17 percent, and the times have dictated that this is what we want to do, and to put it on before the next 'Celebrity Apprentice.' In many cases, these people had great jobs and were riding high. Now they're having very tough times."
Even with that consideration, Trump claims each episode's climactic boardroom sequence -- ousting one player from the contest with Trump's iconic pronouncement, "You're fired!" -- remains what is expected.
"I don't let it temper me, but I do help these people," he says. "We're setting them up with job interviews with many great sponsors, which we've never done before. I didn't have to do that back when we had Omarosa (Manigault-Stallworth) and all those other great characters who, frankly, could go out and get jobs. This is a different time."
The present time, Trump believes, is equalizing those who may seem to have bright futures and those who already have experienced professional setbacks.
"We have some people who were great students with great jobs," he says, "and all of a sudden, they don't have jobs. And they have families. I think we hit a chord with this, but we're just being reflective of the times."
Also an executive producer of "The Apprentice" along with
"That's a great sign that they love what they're seeing," Trump reasons of NBC. "We think this is a very important show to be doing now."