Reasoning that a "Celebrity Apprentice" without the host who made it popular in the first place probably won't be the same show -- or have the same success -- NBC Thursday announced that the series will be placed on hiatus for a year while a search is conducted for a Donald Trump replacement.

And asked whether Trump might even return as host to the spinoff of the reality TV competition show "The Apprentice" if his run for the White House ends at some point, NBC Entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt told TV writers at the Television Critics Association press tour: "I'm going to end this [press conference] with two words, and then we're going to move on. Absolutely not."

Nevertheless, Greenblatt did leave the distinct impression that while the door was closed, it wasn't exactly locked either. (The show -- which has been a reasonably successful placeholder for the network even in its diminished state in recent years -- will return in the 2016-17 season).

NBCUniversal severed ties with Trump in June after he declared in a presidential campaign announcement that Mexicans illegally entering the country were "rapists."Trump promptly blasted his longtime network as cowardly, and the freeze deepened. But Thursday, a thaw, of sorts, began (Trump will also appear on "Meet the Press" Sunday.")

Calling Trump "a really effusive great guy...just a lovely guy," Greenblatt gave a good impression of a boss who wants to make amends with a valued former employee, or at least extend an olive branch: "Whether you agree with anything he says, he says it without any kind of filter. And you also get the sense that he doesn't have a big retinue of people around him who are messaging him and handling him and I think there's something refreshing about that...The world likes a star and he's a star."

Greenblatt said "we've actually been overwhelmed by a number of really exciting people who have come forward and are interested in taking over the show. You've heard some of the names bandied about. Some of them are simply not true, but I also don't want to speculate on any specifics today because we haven't gotten that far in the process."

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Separately, NBC announced that Rihanna will join "The Apprentice" next season as an advisor to the coaches. In addition, the network said that Jimmy Fallon had signed a six-year extention to remain as host of "The Tonight Show."