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Thursday, November 11, 2004

They Should Just Play Monopoly To Settle This
From the Irish Examiner:

Tycoon Donald Trump has poked fun at fellow billionaire Richard Branson after his new reality show The Rebel Billionaire was a flop on its opening night.

Branson's television contest to find someone to run his Virgin empire has been touted as a rival to Trump's The Apprentice, but the New Yorker is laughing at the claims.

Speaking to TV news show Extra!, Trump boasts: "Branson's ratings were terrible, down the tubes...The Apprentice is the hottest show there is. Richard Branson, your ratings speak very loudly, and you just got fired!"...

A Boston Globe reviewer trashes the whole genre (although it should be noted that Boston Globe employees are probably really grumpy right now):

Take these shows and shove them
By Matthew Gilbert, Globe Staff | November 9, 2004

First of all, let me point out that I love my job. (And my boss.) Second of all, let me point out that I hate the Rev. Al Sharpton's dopey "I Hate My Job." The similarly themed "The Rebel Billionaire: Branson's Quest for the Best" doesn't inspire much more affection. Despite the mellow stylings of Virgin tycoon Richard Branson, whose windblown man-of-adventure hair is the yin to Donald Trump's yang, "Rebel" is without a cause to exist.

Tonight, these two new series join the growing genre of go-go reality TV, which asks attractive young people to do stupid things to improve their careers and become Tom Wolfe-ian "masters of the universe," or at least happy from 9 to 5. Trump's "The Apprentice," now in its second season, is the great-granddaddy of these shows, having bred a gaggle of clones in the blink of a TV programmer's eye....

"The Rebel Billionaire"...self-consciously sets itself up to be the anti-"Apprentice." Early on, as the 16 contestants wait to meet Branson, a Trump impersonator emerges from a limousine with something akin to a broom on his head. But it's a reality ruse! Branson himself then gets out of a humble cab, a symbolic statement that he's not from the same cold and pretentious business world as the Donald. He paints himself as a sensitive and experiential boss, one who wants to look his players in the eye and give them a sincere pep talk before kicking them out of the game and stomping on their dreams in front of millions.

Of course, Branson has to be something of a Trumpian egomaniac. To create a show about your own massive success and surround yourself with a group of hungry and smarmy courtiers is certainly not modest. On "Rebel Billioniaire," it's meet the new-age boss, same as the old boss. Rich man Mark Cuban of ABC's "The Benefactor" faced the same contradiction, promoting his just-folks nature while playing a ruthless god with "ordinary people."

Tonight, Branson takes half his players 10,000 feet high in a hot-air balloon, then has them cross to another balloon on a plank. Somehow, their success at this "Fear Factor"-like stunt is meant to reveal their qualifications to run Branson's Virgin empire, supposedly the show's big prize. At least on "The Apprentice," Trump judges its contestants on business-related exercises....

Sharpton isn't exactly a role model on "I Hate My Job"....On the show, which premieres on Spike at 9 p.m., Sharpton coaches eight men who are competing to win career makeovers. Frank shovels manure but wants to be a male model, Jim is a lawyer who wants to be a comedian, Chuck is a handyman who wants to be a hockey coach, and so on. Will Sharpton be able to liberate them from their workaday misery? They're such a bunch of dolts, it's hard to root for them.

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