Friday, December 10, 2010
...the person you'd most expect.
Take a random person on the street. Someone who's never seen The Apprentice and only knows about Donald Trump what she sees on billboards and gossip rags. Ask him — or her — to predict this season finale.
Would Donald Trump pick the down-to-earth, chubby country boy with the southern he's-like-your-best-friend charisma, or the extremely attractive, clinically professional business woman?
Spoiler: He picked the attractive woman with the nice suit.
Clint Robertson, a Texan who sold everything he had in the recession and moved to Post Falls, lost in the show's finale last night to Brandy Kuentzelup — a political science major, lawyer, activist, and entrepreneur — is the winner.
There's one inherent problem with reality TV: reality.
Oh, the producers fight valiantly against it, throwing up all sorts of editing tricks, pressures on judges, stunts and games to create the most conflict, but sometimes — despite their best, sweaty efforts — the result conforms to reality. Boring, soggy reality.
In the last challenges, Robertson made several mistakes:
1) He approved publications with a significant number of typos, costing his event budget thousands of dollars to reprint.
2) He used the very non-Trumpy word "ya'll" repeatedly, annoying his colleagues.
3) He mispronounced "endive," a vegetable I've never heard of but that rich people/people-who-don't-eat-exclusively-PastaRoni have.
4) To show off his adaptability, he picked the task that he'd have the least advantage in, instead of the one he'd be most successful at.
5) He delegated too much, instead of conducting an important task himself.
6) He spent too much time dilly-dallying on the golf course instead of sticking close to his team.
7) He gave a long rambling speech about how he should be the winner, instead of simply picking a few aspects to quickly highlight.
By contrast, the mistakes made by Brandy's team (specifically, the crappy prizes they chose) were the result of her teammates specifically going against her instructions.
In the end, Robertson's peers sunk him. Contestant after contestant said they'd pick Brandy over Clint. And their reasons were persuasive. (One said she only recommended Robertson during the second-to-last round because he'd be easier to overthrow if she made it to the finale.) After all, business isn't just about impressing your boss. It's about impressing your colleagues.
In a drama, the underdog would have won. But in a reality show, the narrative arc often ends in a release of steam and a puff of anti-climax. Producers can use dramatic music and fake conflict to keep us guessing, but they can't escape the simple fact that a blah winner is a blah winner.
The awkward and anti-climactic finale for The Apprentice last night may have been that way for a reason: The show filmed Trump hiring both Brandy Kuentzel and Cliff Robertson, so they’d have footage to use in the event that NBC didn’t order a live finale.
Apparently, that's a pretty regular occurrence on reality shows. One advantage — it avoids leaks. But it's yet another aspect of artifice in reality shows — one that doesn't necessarily make things more entertaining.