How ABC Got Trumped on 'The Apprentice'

03/08/2004 AT 01:00 PM EST

NBC's latest hit "The Apprentice," in which New York mogul Donald Trump hunts for a qualified person to join his company, could have been a big hit for rival network ABC -- which was the first to pass on producer Mark Burnett's idea, The New York Times reports.

Of course, Disney owns ABC, which means the bad decision ("Apprentice" now pulls in some 20 million viewers) is being partly attributed to the company's embattled chairman Michael Eisner. And it's further proof that some people in Hollywood are taking delight in his fall from grace.

During last week's Disney stockholders' meeting, Eisner, who turned 62 on Sunday, was forced to step down from his role at the helm of the Magic Kingdom, which many are saying has lost its magic under him.

While Eisner may not be solely responsible for ABC's rejection of "The Apprentice," The Times reports that losing out on the show is indicative of how Eisner's management style stymied creativity in others in his corporate realm.

"It's a little frustrating as a producer" that ABC execs can't close a deal, as their equals at other networks can, says Burnett, who also is the man behind "Survivor" on CBS. "I honestly get a sick feeling in my stomach going over there ... knowing it's going to be so hard for them to make a deal."

Lloyd Braun, a top ABC executive, tells the paper that he was hot to do a show with Trump, and Trump himself says, "Lloyd was great, but he wanted to do some kind of 'Osbournes' show, showing me dealing with contractors and politicians. I couldn't do that."

The Times also says that although Disney developed "CSI," it didn't go the distance with the crime drama, out of fears from the Eisner-run studio that it would not perform well in foreign markets. "CSI," which has a successful spinoff set in Miami and is about to spinoff yet another (set in New York), is not only CBS's highest-rated show, but also often the highest-rated show on television.

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