A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this show includes many product endorsements. Female contestants sometimes use "sex appeal" to boost sales or to get attention. Though there are no explicit references to sex, this show can sometimes reinforce negative stereotypes of females in the workplace. Some seasons of the series revolve around "celebrity" contestants like Stephen Baldwin and Gene Simmons -- who presumably participate to promote themselves and their projects, as well as to compete.
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What's the story?
Working from the template established by The Real World and Survivor, THE APPRENTICE pits hungry young would-be executives against each other in a corporate competition to see who can outwit, out-market, and out-manage the others. Eighteen contestants are divided into two teams, both of which are assigned a business-related task in each episode by the show's smirking overlord, Donald Trump. Each week, a member from the losing team is sent home. Unlike Survivor, the competitors can only nominate three possible candidates for dismissal. The ultimate judgment lies in Trump's hands.
Is it any good?
The show retains the catty behavior and alliance-forming of its reality predecessors but replaces drunken hookups and obstacle courses with boasts of business savvy and the frequently demeaning job of selling something no one seems to want. It's so shamelessly capitalist that its endorsement of corporate culture can seem like indoctrination. This view has resonated with many viewers, perhaps because corporations have been either demonized or ignored by other shows. Generally, the most aggressive competitors lose. The contestants who last the longest are those who know when to be cooperative and when to be cutthroat. The show's main flaw is its failure to be critical of the possible long-term negative effects of corporate culture.
Parents should put the show's money-above-all-else world view into perspective by explaining that while many people strive for business success to support themselves and their families, there's more to life than money.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the show's promotion of corporate capitalism. While that topic is too big for any one show to address fully, this series is a useful starting point. Does it offer an accurate portrayal of corporate culture? Are participants with higher educations and more financial stability given an unfair advantage? Do the products featured on the show make you want to buy them? Families can also discuss how "real" reality TV is. Is it fair to assume that the contestants' actions are an accurate portrayal of who they really are? How do you think editing plays a role in telling their story?