Remember back in the day when "The Apprentice" actually featured Trump supplicants who really wanted a job and weren't quasi-famous celebrities looking to write a check to their favorite charity? Thursday, we arrive back at the future with a more or less classic "Apprentice" edition featuring people you've (likely) never heard of, but may empathize with.

These 16 are - with one exception - out of work. The winner gets a job with the Trump Organization, and everyone else gets job interviews at top companies. The first task is to design downtown office space, and - yes - someone will get fired.


Back in the Roaring '00s, when "The Apprentice" was born, you almost needed Prada sunglasses to watch this show. The Trumpster's palace and boardroom were gold lame symbols of that Gilded Age, while the host - that genius of effortless if also studied self-promotion - was its spokesman. (Who wouldn't want to work for The Donald, The Donald wondered?) Thursday, there's a bit of a reversal. Swaddled in grim beige and dark tones, the boardroom is tomblike, while the host has become a high priest of empathy. "I hate looking at what I'm seeing, and I'm going to do something about it," Trumpster declares.

But get past the sobriety, and you'll come to the same conclusion I did: This is the same old "Apprentice." It all unfolds the way we remember, while the boardroom showdown dissolves into a cacophony of bitter recrimination and catcalls. Ah, some things never change.


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Almost public TV-like by current reality-show standards, this new edition is actually a lot like the original, absent the Velveeta. True-blue fans will rediscover its pleasures.