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In a move that should surprise no one, Arnold Schwarzenegger is making it clear that any (unlikely) future version of The Celebrity Apprentice will not include him.
The host, who subbed in for now-President Donald Trump only to find out later that Trump was still an executive producer on the show, announced via a Friday statement that he has left the embattled NBC reality show. “I loved every second of working with NBC and Mark Burnett,” Schwarzenegger said Friday in a statement. ” Everyone — from the celebrities to the crew to the marketing department — was a straight 10, and I would absolutely work with all of them again on a show that doesn’t have this baggage.”
Schwarzenegger may be getting out in front of the inevitable, as future seasons of any Apprentice series seem less and less likely. On top of the cloud of Trump’s lingering involvement, and his very public discussions of the series that solidified his fame, the show’s ratings were in the tank. An NBC rep tells The Hollywood Reporter that no decision has been made about the future of the show, but there have been rumblings that longtime staffers have been told it’s safe to look for other work.
Even when the new version debuted to middling numbers, NBC chief Bob Greenblatt spoke optimistically about the series — and the possibility of continuing it without the former California governor as host. “We have not really, honestly, thought about the future of the show,” he said in January, adding that the Trump profit participation and credit on the broadcast weren’t likely a factor in its ratings decline. “The credit issue doesn’t reach an audience, really. They’re not staying away from the show because he’s involved in it, nor are they coming to it because he’s involved in it. It’s a non-issue.”
Schwarzenegger’s promotional tour for Celebrity Apprentice was marred by the surprise December news that Trump had retained an executive producer credit on the Burnett- and MGM TV-produced series. Just a day after a Trump staffer released a statement saying that the then-president-elect had a “big stake” on the show he originally hosted, Schwarzenegger faced curious reporters at a press conference.
But for all of the hubbub about the unprecedented conflict for a U.S. commander in chief, the show never got much attention once it premiered. All told, it averaged a middling 1.3 rating among adults 18-to-49 and a slightly more respectable 4.9 million viewers this past season. And those numbers, it should be emphasized, were aided with time-shifting. Night-of performances drew smaller hauls. The numbers certainly got the attention of ratings enthusiast Trump. He used a February meeting with clergy and government officials to solicit prayers for Schwarzenegger and his ratings.
The whole thing has been most unfortunate for NBC. The network actively has tried to distance itself from Trump (with the notable exception of his 2015 Saturday Night Live hosting gig) since he announced his run for office almost two years ago. And, after all that, it found itself inadvertently paying him for the rebranded reality show.