Picks and Pans Review: The Rebel Billionaire

UPDATED 11/15/2004 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/15/2004 at 01:00 AM EST

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In the first of the two episodes that launch this series Nov. 9, a pompous-looking imposter with Donald Trump hair emerges from a stretch limo just before British mogul-adventurer Richard Branson steps out of a humble taxi. If s a good gag, but it underlines an inescapable fact: The Trumpster got to this territory first: The derivative Rebel Billionaire mixes Trump's The Apprentice with Fear Factor and The Amazing Race. Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways and other enterprises, puts job seekers through a global contest that features extreme challenges like walking a plank between hot-air balloons at 10,000 feet. He says he'll make the ultimate winner president of his empire, though it's unclear why a sedentary person wouldn't do equally well in the office. Branson is more likable than Trump, but what does it say for a tycoon's judgment when he turns the executive-search process into the X Games?

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