The weird future of Celebrity Apprentice

Celebrity Apprentice’s seventh season is so delayed that it there may be at least two years between seasons for the show, which was not on NBC’s schedule this year and which has not yet started production. It’s possible the show won’t return until summer 2015, if at all.

Sunday, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt told TV critics in L.A. that “we’re casting it now.” NBC reality executive Paul Teledgy added, “We’re going to shoot it in the spring. Then it will be available to us as an option for midseason.” If they decide not to use that option, that might bump it to summer 2015—or later, or at all?

Last July, NBC confirmed to me that the show wouldn’t shoot until this spring and air until this summer, so the network is on track for that production schedule, at least.

But the last season of the show aired between March 3, 2013, and May 19, 2013, so if it does surface midseason, it looks like at least a two-year gap between seasons, unless some show quickly tanks in the fall and NBC uses this to fill the timeslot.

Based on this weird treatment, it’s kind of amazing the network hasn’t just cancelled the show, because it seems like they are not at all enthusiastic about it. Of course, they have higher-performing reality TV in The Voice, but they are also trying a new reality format this spring in The Apprentice’s old timeslot: American Dream Builders, the Nate Berkus-hosted home redesign competition.

In other words, they’d rather take a risk and air a brand-new show than replace it with one that has a trusted producer, Mark Burnett, and would likely get not great but solid ratings (though, of course, ratings have declined for the show). The fact that a TV network, which is risk averse by default, would reject its previously sure-thing show for something that could potentially just tank says everything you need to know about how much NBC still cares about The Apprentice. It’s clearly become a fall-back, only-if-we-need-it show

Blame Donald Trump or the Celebrity edition or just fatigue with the format. I do think the format has life left in it, but it definitely needs a refresh. Perhaps it’ll get one. We’ll see soon—oh, in a year and five months. Maybe.

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