During an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN, White House adviser and Trump lackey Stephen Miller kept going back to a talking point about how Trump revolutionized reality TV, but did he?
Trump didn’t so much as revolutionize reality TV as reality TV revolutionized Trump. The Apprentice was just another reality TV show. Networks were at first hesitant to air because they thought it wouldn’t connect with everyday people. Back in 2004, business TV shows weren’t really successful, but The Apprentice is no Shark Tank.
In fact, Trump didn’t actually want to do reality TV at all. ABC wanted to do a reality show with Trump which showed the inner workings of his business by following him around all day. Trump said no. Before The Apprentice, he thought reality TV was the bottom of the barrel. Only after he realized what it was doing for his brand after the premiere, did Trump fully embrace the character that NBC had written for him.
But while The Apprentice itself came out with stellar ratings they quickly diminished after the first season. It wasn’t so much revolutionary as annoying. The larger than life Trump character which graced people’s TV screens sometimes up to three hours a week, was more enough for the American Public to stomach.
Trump wanted more, thanks to The Apprentice his public profile rose organically and for the first time in his life he was the celebrity he had always wanted to be. But this was around the time of Friends, CSI, Desperate Housewives, and American Idol. The Apprentice wasn’t alone.
American Idol one can argue did revolutionize reality TV and the music industry itself. Kelly Clarkson is still a power house with record setting album sales. People are still trying to rip idol off. Fox has a new Idol rip off The Four, and Idol itself is getting rebooted by ABC this spring. Idol actually competed with The Apprentice in ratings for the same year both shows earning roughly the same 20 Million plus views, but Idol stayed on top for ten years while The Apprentice slipped drastically.
In fact, the optimism of singing competitions and talent shows attracts way more viewers than the pessimism of business minded shows. A talent show can change your life by showing off what you got, a business competition requires cunning smarts and a willingness to get your hands dirty, to play with the big boys. People say that they are uncomfortable with the culture of the business world that is often portrayed on these shows, and none of that was tampered down on The Apprentice! In fact, thanks to Donald Trump, it was all but heightened. Donald Trump himself is that character personified, and without The Apprentice there would be no Trump, no President Trump. However, reality TV would be just find without The Apprentice. We would even still have Shark Tank!