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TV3 in the firing line as much-hyped Celebrity Apprentice faces the chop

TV3 executives will take to the boardroom for crisis meetings this week as they attempt to save their summer reality series, Celebrity Apprentice.

The Herald has learned that filming on a star-studded version of the hit show is over two months behind schedule, after those in power at the commercial station failed to lock down a contract with producers of the series, Shinawil.

Despite having no confirmed sponsors, participants or airdate at the time, TV3 bosses proceeded to launch the much anticipated series at their spring schedule launch on January 8.

However now it is feared the programme could face being pushed back until next autumn or even 2011 due to a lack of financial backers.

"They had hoped to have the show in the can and be at the post-production stage by now so there's huge panic to get it back on track," said a station insider. "Both TV3 and Shinawil have their own ideas about how best to proceed so it's a matter of coming up with a compromise to suit both sides.

"There's been a lot of publicity around it already so it would be hugely embarrassing for all involved if it had to be pulled now," they added.

Shinawil boss Larry Bass confirmed to the Herald that production on the series will remain at a standstill until both sides have reached a satisfactory agreement on the terms and conditions of the show.

"Until absolutely everything is in place we're not going to agree to move forward," he explained. "We're still out there looking for sponsors and trying to get everything finalised.

"We had hoped to start shooting in January but obviously that timeframe has passed. Then we had looked at doing it in February but obviously that's also been and gone.

"I'm not going to be tied down to a specific schedule. We could take a decision to go ahead with it next month and if that were to happen then it could still be on air by the summer.

"Unlike the full series of the Apprentice, shooting on Celebrity Apprentice takes 15 days so we could be finished on time.

"I just wish people would leave us alone and let us get on with it," he added.

Meanwhile a representative for TV3 could not shed any further light on the issue.

"It most definitely has not been axed. We are hoping to go ahead with it as planned," they said.

Power couple Jackie Lavin and Bill Cullen are expected to return to the boardroom alongside colleague Brian Purcell to host the show.

Newstalk's Eamon Keane is also said to have been approached to present the secondary show, You're Fired.