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Trump finally utters the words 'You're hired!'

By ERIC DEGGANS, Times TV/Media Critic
Published April 16, 2004

In the end, it wrapped up just as she wanted: Omarosa determined who would win The Apprentice.

Snarky business tycoon Donald Trump handed the top prize in his hit NBC reality show to Chicago entrepreneur Bill Rancic, picking the cigar-selling businessman over Harvard MBA Kwame Jackson during a two-hour finale Thursday - mostly because Jackson was dumb enough to trust fired contestant Omarosa Manigualt-Stallworth.

As the winner, Rancic chose to head a major building project in Chicago, a plum job that seems beyond the ability of a top executive chosen during a reality TV show (he also got a new car). Regardless of whether he'll be allowed any actual authority, he'll make $250,000 doing the job over the next year.

It was a decision that showed Trump's typical lack of logic in making choices on NBC's business-tinged reality hit; he faulted Jackson for not firing Stallworth when she lied to him during the show's final challenge - despite the fact that Jackson had no idea ejection was an option.

Trump also served as a blunt master of ceremonies in the show's last half hour, taking $250,000 from fired contestant Sam Solovey to hire him and needling Stallworth over her consistently refuted claims that a fellow contestant directed a racial slur at her.

Once Trump revealed Rancic as the winner with an enthusiastic "You're hired" during the show's trademark boardroom conclusion, the set split apart to reveal a soundstage in the Saturday Night Live studio packed with an audience of 300 fans. But much of Thursday's program was spent on taped segments showing the conclusion of the program's final challenges.

Each task felt like a class on How to Serve Big Shots, with Rancic coordinating a big-money charity golf tournament and Jackson basically forced to serve as pop star Jessica Simpson's valet before her Atlantic City concert at Trump's casino.

The real lesson in how business works came from watching how NBC pushed all its news shows to shill for the Apprentice finale - with effusive segments on MSNBC, Dateline NBC and the Today show all hyping Thursday's finale.

No matter. All involved got what they wanted from Thursday's finale: Trump got weeks of self-aggrandizing attention on national TV, NBC got a water cooler favorite of a reality show and Stallworth got her 15 minutes of fame.

Rancic may have a $250,000 job, but Stallworth earned a spot in the reality TV diva hall of fame. Makes you wonder who the real winner was, after all.

[Last modified April 16, 2004, 01:05:40]

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