Did Apprentice get a “special favor” to fuel its vans, and does that matter?

The Celebrity Apprentice‘s all-star season was one of the many television shows produced in New York that were interrupted by Hurricane Sandy. Two people claiming to be crew members on the show have written letters to Gawker, with the first saying that the production was able to secretly fuel its vans in an area still suffering from severe gas shortages, while the second defended the production and its crew members, who are among those affected by the storm.

The first letter didn’t identify the show by name, but still clearly identified it by identifying Donald Trump (“The show’s star is a certain blonde haired blow-hard who has an obsession with our current president”). It said the show was getting “a special favor” in the form of a station “opening up and allowing us to fill up our gas deprived 15 passenger vans,” 17 in total. The writer says that’s gas “I’m sure the citizens of those cities could really use.”

A follow-up letter didn’t address the “special favor” accusation directly, but argued that the show’s crew “are literally hundreds of working class individuals who are grateful to have a job opportunity in this economy” and consists “largely of NYC/NJ natives that have been dealing with the aftermath; flooding, power outages, nonexistent transportation, and we have still been reporting to the office everyday, on time, ready to work.”

The writer said that the show’s “transportation department has been working around the clock in order to provide rides to those on our crew that had no other means of getting to work. They, like many east coasters, have been waiting in line for (up to 6 or 7) hours to get gas. They have been forced to travel further and further away from the city to find gas stations that were operational and available in order to get people to work. And yet, they have maintained their unshakeable positive attitude.”

The writer says that the initial tipster is “an unequivocally disgusting person” for a letter that “invites at best harassment and at worst physical altercations against people who are simply trying to do their jobs.”

Whether or not The Apprentice got a special favor, and whether or not that’d be justified, the respondent’s argument is a compelling one beyond the initial point about post-hurricane gas.

It’s quite easy to get angry about the idea of a reality show using up resources, but the writer reminds us that shows are produced by people, and not by the people we see on screen. Likewise, it’s easy to dismiss Donald Trump and/or his bullshit and/or his reality series, but there are hundreds (“200+ people,” the writer says) who work on the show and depend on it while it is in production.

Most of them aren’t making the decisions that are high-level ones that we react to. They’re just making the show possible, and making the best show possible. Their general invisibility makes it hard to fully appreciate that work, but still, they deserve more acknowledgement than we–I certainly include myself in that–usually give them.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.