Wanted: publicity-seeking millionaire

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What tremendous news we awoke to the other day with the announcement that production on a New Zealand version of The Apprentice was about to begin – just as soon as someone could lay their hands on a
publicity-seeking millionaire.

It makes you wonder what took us so long. As Great Southern Television boss Phil Smith suggested last week, the “highly instructional” Kiwi edition would not only be a reality show with a conscience but an excellent vehicle for budding entrepreneurs and emerging business types.

“In recessionary times we want to show real people showing endeavour and succeeding,” said Smith.

“We are looking for people who are ambitious, driven and are looking for a major break because the person who becomes the winner will in effect become a celebrity in their own right as they have in America and the UK.”

He’s got a point, you know. A cursory glance through the US show’s winners reveals a veritable Who’s Who of famous names – including maiden victor Bill Rancic, Kelly Perdrew, Kendra Todd, Randal Pinkett, Sean Yazbeck and Stefani Schieffer.

I don’t know about you but I can’t remember the last time I made it through a day without thinking of Kendra Todd, let alone Randal Pinkett.

And as Smith seemed to suggest, the initiative will finally end that peculiarly Kiwi anomaly of not using reality TV for more serious purposes, such as sorting out our best-equipped business tycoons.

After all, who needs an MBA when you’ve got The Apprentice NZ on your CV?

Hopefully, this won’t be an idea that’s allowed to die. If it works as well as Smith predicts, the flow-on effects could be dramatic. I mean, why stop at business leaders? Why not use the same format to find NZ cricket’s next top-order batsman or the All Blacks’ next lineout jumper? What better way to organise a replacement for Irene van Dyk?

School teachers, health professionals, TV columnists, governor-generals – they could all be selected in this way.
Prime ministers even, if it came to the crunch. Far more entertaining than general elections and much cheaper, I’ll be bound.

It’s true, if the NZ show mimicks the US version in any way, it’ll probably turn into an enormous advertising and product placement opportunity for the various companies involved. But the blurring of the editorial-advertorial line is a small price to pay for the discovery of genuine talent, surely?

Smith is right, The Apprentice NZ is the way of the future. A worthy, constructive project that transcends TV to the point of becoming an invaluable community service. Thank goodness there are folk like him who, rather than merely considering the profit margins of such a venture, can actually see the greater good.