They’re looking for a Donald Down Under at Australia’s Network Nine. But Kerry Packer, Australia’s richest man — and owner of Nine — has turned down an offer from his own development executives to take on the Trump role in an Aussie version of “The Apprentice.”
Nine will air the American edition of the hit reality show as well as produce its own version (when it finds a local Donald to fill the role) following a pre-emptive move by its Los Angeles-based scout to snap up the show and the format rights. Andrea Keir, Nine’s president of programming and acquisitions, spotted the potential for “The Apprentice” long before it went on air here.
The move was a coup for Keir, whose job is to get U.S. programming information through her network of industry insiders and to keep her bosses back in Australia up to the mark on everything that’s coming down the line in U.S. television.
“American programming is still of major importance for Nine. Some of our top-rated shows are ‘CSI,’ ‘Without a Trace,’ ‘ER,’ ‘Malcolm in the Middle,’ ‘Survivor,’ and now we have ‘The Apprentice’ going on air in two weeks’ time and we have very high expectations for it,” says Keir, who took up her post in Los Angeles just nine months ago.
Keir got to visit Trump at his headquarters in the Big Apple when she was producing a promo spot for the Aussie outing. “He was just incredibly gracious and was so into what we were doing over at Nine,” she says.
“I was in one of the boardrooms when we were shooting, not sure if it was the one where everybody gets fired. Now that would have been too scary.”
“The Apprentice” is set to be a major commitment for Nine despite the fact that there has been a dip in ratings for many reality shows in Australia this season. Additionally, U.S. programming is getting ditched in other big TV territories in favor of locally produced programming.
But Keir, a former producer for Australia’s “60 Minutes,” says her presence in Los Angeles is “critical,” in part because reality programs and formats are often not available initially on the open market, which requires behind-the-scenes maneuvering.
Keir is also scanning the new comedy and drama pilots, and is particularly excited about projects being developed by key supplier Warner Bros., including the “Friends” spinoff “Joey,” the John Goodman vehicle “Center of the Universe,” and the one-hour shows “Eyes,” set in the arena of risk management, and “Jack and Bobby.”