New 'Apprentice' Welcomes Celebrities

Donald Trump is used to turning ordinary entrepreneurs into quivering tubs of jelly, but will he have the same power over celebrities?

As expected, NBC used its Monday (July 16) morning Television Critics Association press tour to announce the return of "The Apprentice" to the network's schedule. The next installment of the former phenomenon will expand the format to focus on celebrities.

"It's always good to be in business with Mark Burnett and Donald Trump," says Ben Silverman, new co-chairman for NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. "I am so excited to offer viewers what promises to be the most explosive version of 'The Apprentice' that anyone has seen."

While the competitions will remain mostly unchanged in the new format, Silverman told reporters that the celebrity contestants would be playing for charity.

The network wouldn't commit to a specific premiere date for the "Apprentice" celebrity season, nor to individual contestants. The plan is to cast famous faces who have also delved into the world of business. Asked for a list of dream contestants, Silverman offered only one.

"I think it'd be great to have Rosie on 'The Apprentice,'" Silverman says. "Donald personally told me to extend an invite to her."

He appeared to be serious.

The show's most recent season, "The Apprentice: Los Angeles," averaged only 7.5 million viewers per episode, far below the lofty heights it achieved three years ago, when its first final was watched by 40.1 million viewers. Although NBC didn't announce a place for "The Apprentice" in its fall schedule, the show still ranked as last season's most upscale unscripted show.

"The success of 'The Apprentice' has been a great experience for me," Trump says in a typically understated statement. "I look forward to working with Ben, NBC and Mark, the best team in television. I believe that celebrity 'Apprentice' will bring our wonderful show to new heights."

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