my turn: on apprentice fan culture.

Part of the bargain of being on TV is being out there for “public consumption.” And consume the public does. It’s a trip digesting everything directed your way: the public’s judgment, leaps of logic, mocking, and even undue praise. Whereas once confined to living room discussion or the water cooler, the Internet puts all these thoughts, observations, and judgments out there for the world to see. The flipside of this bargain is that those posting also end up putting themselves out there for consumption as well. And now it’s my turn to judge and comment! Oh, what fun : )

I believe there to be three types of viewers/fans of The Apprentice (and most other reality shows from what I can tell):

The Professor. This type of viewer/fan has the strongest opinion. They believe themselves to be the show’s expert and dissect every second of the footage while assigning it astronomical value. They believe what they see on TV to be what actually happened. They claim an understanding of the editing and the potential for manipulation, but end up aligning their opinions and feelings in the way the editors intend. Once their opinion is formed, anything to the contrary is ignored as noise.

The “Realist.” This type of viewer/fan watches the show, but takes everything they watch with a grain salt. They typically hold the more moderate of opinions. They listen to interviews, try to read between the lines, and look for inconsistencies in the editing/extra footage, etc. The show is entertainment: they like the show, but fundamentally accept that editing is often done in bad faith. They form their opinion of each and every character often in spite of the editing.

These two types of fans who make up 95% of the posters/bloggers about the show. The other 5% seems to be made up of cast members themselves, friends, family and probably people who work on the show.

The last type of viewer doesn’t really read or post about the show. They watch the show as pure entertainment. They laugh, mock, roll their eyes and then forget about the show 15 minutes after it’s on. From personal observation this is the vast majority of viewers.

And then there’s a tiny splinter group that I have to talk about. The Experts. (Note, this might be limited to The Apprentice.)
The experts post about the show in some kind of professional capacity. They attempt to take away lessons from it: executive/workplace, psychology, business lessons. Lots of lessons. I’ve been told that every season, cast members will write to these wonderful people and tell them that they’ve drawn lessons that are way off base. That these lessons are not only not based in reality, but are sometimes the opposite of what happened. These experts respond that ‘if it wasn’t shown on TV, it’s like it never happened. And that by going on reality TV this is the risk we take.’ The idiocy of “learning” from tiny snippets of a reality TV gameshow, in which hours and hours of footage are edited down to mere seconds, and drawing wisdom from it is  laughable. But as going on a reality TV show allows contestants to be consumed and commented on, someone posting “lessons” also opens themselves up for commentary as well. So: anyone who thinks someone is credible as an executive coach, publisher, business consultant, whatever based on an “analysis” of a game show called the Apprentice– you might deserve each other : )

A few notable exceptions: there are those who actually interview the contestants and try to find out what actually happened to get at the lessons/theories they want to discuss. They may choose to not believe what the cast says, but at a minimum, they acknowledge that seconds on TV isn’t a basis for an accurate judgement. There are also those like cast-favorites’ Mike and Marjie who know there is so much more out there and facilitate getting that other side out there.

I write this for me and my fellow castmates who either read the message boards/blogs/myspace updates all throughout the season, or browsed them at Derek’s house last Thursday for the first time and were horrified.

And yes, Marisa, we enjoyed watching you reading TWOP that night as much as anything else that entire weekend.

4/16/13 – When I look back at The Apprentice, I’m most struck at how much I cared. I almost have a hard time believing that I could care this much about a TV show, what random people thought, about the moronic pundits or anything else. Memory reminds me of how intensely I took it all, but with hindsight this only reminds me of my foolishness. Oh, the ever-present inexperience of youth 🙂

11 thoughts on “my turn: on apprentice fan culture.

  1. I see myself more into the expert category because after all I read each of the contestant's blog….but then again I accept the reality aspect of the Apprentice (it's still an interview process with a 250 K job at the end). Is Stefanie the best fit for the job? She was an absolute sleeper! I guess Trump didn't have much choice after firing everyone else with substance 😉

    Cheers,

    C.S

  2. It's interesting how a show can fool you and project a mystical reality.

    People consume media, I believe, with a skeptic's eye. We see how the editors create a storyline and relate it to everyday advertisers making up their story to deceive us. A lot of media and advertising are deceiving (rightfully by trade?) and the only way to win as a consumer is to act like a "realist" by examining inconsistencies, predicting behavior and catching bluffs. If not, you are consumed.

    What do you think, Surya?

  3. Uh oh. I think I am guilty of overanalyzing. I didn't mean to rankle you with the long diatribes. It was more a way to goad you into talking about what the whole experience was really like. I'd like to hear more about your experience on the show, what those people on the show are like in real life, and how real the trump job experience really is.

  4. Surya,

    I got a chance to listen to your interview with Mike and Marjorie and I thought it was fantastic. I even went back to rewatch the episodes that you were in to get a better understanding of what you were talking about, regarding the editing. I know others contestants have had the same issues with editing especially Andrea from season 5.

    I have to admit when I first starting watching this show, back in season 1, I really felt that I was learning a think or two about the business world. As the seasons went on I felt that I was watching for more of an entertainment value than business lessons. It's kind of sad to see the show take a turn to where it has.

    Overall though, I thought you held a great deal of integrity on the show, you don't see that too often in current TV. I am really glad to hear that you have been able to make light of it and not let it get you down. I think your book idea is a great one and I can't wait to read it.
    You have some really great ideas.

  5. Hi Surya,

    I am pretty sure I fall into the "realist" group–well actually, I now fall into a group you did not mention–"The I no longer Watch the Apprentice" group. No matter how many more seasons Mr. Trump & Burnett can milk–I will not be watching.

    I watch because the show provides escape–just as any other show or curling up with a good book of fiction. However, when the show no longer offers me that escape or entertainment value–I tune out.

    I actually missed the finale due to my mom passing away (sudden) right before my eyes. I took care of her for 11 yrs. That is reality.
    Take good care Surya!
    Debbie

  6. Yup – you pegged me – I'm a Realist. The thing that scares me is the number of people – I really believe the majority of people – who take what they read or hear or see in the media as reality. I'm not just talking about 'Reality' TV either – I mean the newspaper, magazines, radio and TV. Our culture has ingrained in us that if it is 'published' or on TV, then it has to be real. The internet has taken this to a whole new level. Anyone can put something that seems real and professional on the net. I'm not saying be skeptical of everything – as the consumate realist I just encourage everyone to do their due diligence. Like Surya said, interviewing people to find out more. There are always as least two sides to a story and frequently even more shades of grey. Information published or aired tends to focus on only one.

    Another good blog to get us thinking – and thinking is something we all don't do enough of lately.

  7. Watched part of this last Apprentice. I felt that some of the contestants were eliminated unfairly as were you. I was really pulling for you to win it and stopped watching after you left. So I have two questions for you.

    Do you feel that the show gave you a fair edit?

    Were you surprised at how Frank and the others treated you or was that just playing for the cameras on their part?

    Apprentice or not, you seem intelligent, focused, and driven. The world is open for you. You're going to have a great life.

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