It annoys Mr. George Ross, one of Donald Trump's faithful business advisors, when The Apprentice's contestants appear keener on becoming celebrities than on landing a gig as Trump's next corporate protégé.

"I think that happens a lot," he sighs. "They want to make a name for themselves as a person, rather than [aiming] to win.

"Sometimes what happens in the boardroom, as far as the contestants are concerned, is one step above being ridiculous," Ross continues. "I don't know why. Maybe it is because they want to survive or maybe it is because they are in front of 20 million people on television."

Of course, Ross himself is hardly above cashing in on reality-TV's fleeting fame. Like fellow judge Carolyn Kepcher and everyone else remotely involved with the Apprentice, he has a book deal. Ross' business-minded manual, Trump Strategies for Real Estate: Billionaire Lessons for the Small Investor (Wiley, $24.95), outlines what he's learned in his 25 years of toiling away for The Donald. But we are more interested in what he thinks of Trump's latest Apprenti.

"I am not overly enthralled by the crop, but there are some good ones there," Ross notes dryly . "I'm not involved in the [initial] interviewing process. I don't know if I'd do better.

"I want somebody that looks at me and says, 'Hey, Buster, in five years, I'll have your job and I'll be interviewing somebody else,'" he says. "I like that. To me, that's somebody who has the strength to succeed and to grow. I don't feel threatened."

The 77-year-old executive is also unimpressed by this season's frequent butchering of the English language. "It irritates me," he grouses. "Certainly, it is inappropriate in the board room and on the show."

And while the curmudgeonly Ross doesn't mind occasionally playing up to the cameras, he laughs, "My best lines [end up] on the cutting-room floor."