| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Maybe Donald Trump and "The
Apprentice" can't get fired.
Just when it seemed that Trump's corporate reality show
would never return to NBC, the network's new head of prime-time
entertainment is thinking about bringing the real estate tycoon
back after all.
The network has asked Trump and fellow executive producer
of the show, Mark Burnett, for a one-week extension of NBC's
option to renew the series, an NBC spokeswoman told Reuters on
Thursday. And they have agreed, according to Trump.
The extension does not guarantee a return of "The
Apprentice" to NBC; it merely gives NBC another week, until
next Friday, to exercise its rights under its existing deal to
air one more installment of the program.
The future of the low-rated show was cast into doubt
earlier this month when "The Apprentice" was left off the new
prime-time schedule unveiled by NBC. The network refused then
to rule out the possibility the program might return.
But Trump himself declared he had decided he was ready to
leave the franchise behind.
NBC's move to reconsider marks one of the first decisions
by the network's new chief programmer, Ben Silverman, who was
named earlier this week with Marc Graboff as a co-chairman of
NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio.
Silverman replaces Kevin Reilly, who left after three years
on the job in a shake-up announced on Tuesday by the
beleaguered General Electric Co.-controlled company.
"It's true. Ben is just getting in and getting up to speed,
and he did ask for an extension on the ('Apprentice') option
for a week," spokeswoman Rebecca Marks said.
Once the option expires, producers are free to shop the
series to another network, and Trump said "numerous networks"
have expressed interest in picking up the show.
"Mr. Trump and Mr. Burnett have agreed to this one-week
extension and have informed the other networks that they cannot
discuss 'The Apprentice' with them until this option period
expires," a statement issued by the Trump Organization said.
In a separate interview with Reuters earlier in the day,
Burnett indicated he favored sticking with NBC, which he said
could bring "The Apprentice" back on air by January.
"We've been a good partner with NBC and made them a lot of
money," Burnett said. "So when the old regime that we had
problems with was gone, then Donald and I decided to try again
with the new regime. So 'Apprentice' fans, all is not lost."
"The Apprentice," which turned Trump into a television star
and popularized his catch phrase, "You're fired!" features
young, aggressive entrepreneurs in a game of elimination as
they compete for a real-life job in Trump's business empire.
The show debuted as a hit in 2004, but it sank steadily in
the ratings in successive years, losing nearly two-thirds of
its original audience by the time it ended its sixth
installment last month.