Picks and Pans Review: The Apprentice

updated 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

REALITY

NBC (Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET)

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Like last summer's The Restaurant, this new venture from Survivor mastermind Mark Burnett is more interesting than the average reality show because we get something different from the usual business of finding a mate or roughing it in the wild. The premise: Sixteen candidates come to the concrete jungle of New York City to compete for a lucrative position with a major company. Anyone who has known the tension of a big job interview will empathize.

Alas, the organization at the center of the action is run by Donald Trump, the real estate pooh-bah (and co-executive producer of this series) with the pouty lips and phenomenally forward-looking hair. Trump, who dismisses one applicant at the end of each episode, heaped so much praise on himself in the premiere that I feared his limo couldn't carry the load. Divided into male and female teams, the contestants perform test assignments ranging from selling lemonade to creating an ad campaign. The group dynamics are worth observing for a while, but when the women go into catfight mode, the show slides into reality-TV routine.

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