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TRY, TRY AGAIN: Like Rasputin, struggling to his feet after being shot, stabbed and strangled, The Apprentice seems to have almost frightening powers of regeneration. Rumours began swirling at least two weeks ago that the show, which had dropped precipitously in ratings, been dropped from NBC’s fall schedule, and had even been publicly abandoned by its host and figurehead, Manhattan developer and erstwhile human brand name Donald Trump, was going to be renewed for a seventh season.
On Friday, a Reuters story reported that network sources — “on condition of anonymity” — were sure that NBC would be announcing the show’s renewal at this month’s TV critics’ press tour. This isn’t official, mind you, but NBC, Trump and producer Mark Burnett had all admitted that negotiations to revive the show were happening, and new NBC programming head Ben Silverman had been candid about his desire to see the show return to NBC — an ambition easily overlooked among Silverman’s publicized wish list, which seemed to include everything from bringing Judd Apatow and Rosie O’Donnell to the network, to staging live gladiatorial matches and giving R. Kelly his own Saturday morning kid’s show.
It’s tempting to speculate that Trump was playing a game of chicken with NBC by making a big show of abandoning the show that, for at least one season, made him a prime time reality TV star, and that NBC was somehow frightened that, if Trump exercised his option to take the show to another network should NBC drop their option, it might miraculously be transformed into a hit again — a phenomenon that this writer can only imagine involving naked chorus lines, cannibalism, and the threat of entombment for each week’s losers.
SPEAKING OF RETURNING FROM THE DEAD: Former NBC entertainment head Kevin Reilly — the man abruptly dismissed by the network mere months after renewing his contract last spring — might be going head to head with Silverman, the man who took his job, with a job at Fox, at least if you believe a Variety story from last Thursday.
Reilly and current head of Fox programming Peter Liguori made their names building FX into a broadcast entity, and News Corp. Chairman Peter Chernin has said that he’d like to bring the team back together at Fox, with Liguori put in charge of business and Reilly working with programming. One is tempted, of course, to imagine that NBC’s revived interest in The Apprentice might have something to do with the idea that Reilly might bring the series to Fox and make the necessary changes to turn it back into a hit. Once again, the mind turns to visions of Donald Trump in a breastplate and helmet whipping contestants in ragged suits chained to the oars of a slave galley plying the waters between Manhattan and Staten Island.