NBC executives looking to turn a Donald Trump race for the White House into a boost for “The Apprentice” should encourage him to run, yet hold off entering the race until another season can be filmed. That would mean a rush production to wrap perhaps by early July, if not sooner.
Episodes will then be in the can and ready to launch early next year right after Trump gets crushed in the Iowa and New Hampshire Republican primaries. The losses will then offer some early publicity for the new season and likely some ratings help.
NBC needn’t worry one of its stalwart shows is going away. Trump has no shot of winning anything on the Presidential trail.
Can he shed the pink tie for even a Brooks Brothers plaid to go “local” and impress Iowa voters?
New Hampshire voters take their primary seriously and aren’t likely to embrace a candidate with even a whiff of being part of a publicity stunt.
That's not to say Trump can’t gain some momentum between now and next January. There is an arc where people embrace non-traditional, anti-establishment candidates until they actually have to cast a vote. (Hard to believe, but in politics Trump is anti-establishment.)
Will Trump’s defeats hurt his sheen as the smartest guy in the boardroom? Not likely, he’s not above poking some fun at himself, having hosted “Saturday Night Live.”
If a new “Apprentice” season is ready for next Feb. 1, the smart strategy will be to then slide in some scenes with Trump reacting to his campaign debacle and trying to turn the losses to his advantage. He can cleverly comment on how politics doesn’t appreciate a successful businessman like him. Instead, it's for a bunch of profligate career politicians who wouldn’t survive a week on “The Apprentice.”
NBC’s main concern with a Trump campaign is his love of the camera could lead to indefensible comments on the trail as he’s surrounded by cameras constantly. He has already waded into the folly about where President Obama was born.
Between now and a new “Apprentice” season next year, NBC stands to benefit from Trump providing Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon with ample material. Yet, while NBC should hope he runs and loses early, other networks with late-night shows yearn for him to capture the GOP nomination and go head-to-head with Obama until Election Day.