The Apprentice Returns

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After much fanfare and promotion, The Apprentice strolls back on to our screens for its sixth series, settling into a comfortable middle age. The winning format remains, although there have been a few personnel changes. Siralun has now been promoted to Lord Sugar and queen of the withering look Margaret Mountford has been replaced by the fresh faced Karen Brady. But apart from that it’s business as usual, with the standard group of egocentric arrogant clowns bickering and bitching at every opportunity. All claim to be original but ironically all appear to be exactly the same- interchangeable suit clad oafs with a passion for self promotion, most of which is so revoltingly cringe worthy it is farcical. Describing yourself as an “unemployed Head of Communications” (you and me both sunshine!) does not sound impressive or inspire confidence. And as for the girl who claimed that the first word she spoke was “money”…was she raised by the Monopoly man? I half expected her to say she had been conceived in a bank. I mean honestly, where do they find these people?

The actual prize is startlingly irrelevant. None of us watch to see these morons succeed. Who even remembers last year’s winner? No, the program has endured because the audience (myself included) are sadistic, loving the squabbles and subsequent catastrophic failures. Blabbering hyperbole about their personal attributes the candidates squarely set themselves up for delicious humiliation, which happened from the outset when ultra aggressive sales executive Dan found it difficult to sell…well, anything really. I think he managed to push about four packs of sausages in the whole day. Same story for project manager Laura in the second week who claimed to be a leader of mythical qualities- and then watched in despair as her team promptly descended into chaos. A bag of angry cats would have been more coherent.

However, this is the BBC so everything is edited and produced to the highest standard. London looks damn good. Gosh, those crisp helicopter shots of Westminster and Canary Wharf almost make me believe that the 2012 Olympics won’t be the complete flop I’m looking forward to. The candidates themselves are based in a chic townhouse- one part of me always wants to see more from here, watching those big egos attempt to coexist in a house could be a feature by itself (oh, wait…).  We are given the impression that everybody in the city is young, dynamic and attractive (with the exception of Sugar’s craggy face of course). Under these pristine skyscrapers money can be made anywhere if you shout loud enough. Capitalism is rampant. Dubious looking sausages can be sold to plush restaurants with no questions asked- just the persuasive presence of a TV crew to witness the deal. The streets truly are paved with gold. A nice fantasy.

Sugar himself is back on scripted form, watching gravely as the applicants trip over themselves in their efforts to bow and scrape and flatter him. Three bags full, Lord Sugar. I often wonder how he would fare in the tasks. Not too well, I fear. When the program loses momentum the producers should consider having a third team consisting of him and his two aides to shake things up a bit. For now though, I’m content to watch him put the teams in their place, something that he still excels at. I’ve never seen the US Apprentice (or any of the other versions which doubtless exist) but I would bank on none of them having anybody who plays the boss man quite as well as old Alan.

It’s funny. There are plenty of people who wouldn’t dream of watching loud, brash reality TV such as The X Factor or Big Brother (RIP?) but would defend The Apprentice to the grave, spluttering pretensions about depth, subtlety and so on. They are sadly mistaken, perhaps confused by the faux sophistication of the classical background music and the calming voiceover. This competition is definitely neither sedate nor measured. It might not always be as loud or flashy as its commercial cousins- certainly there are less pyrotechnics- but Sugar and his cronies can happily roll in the muck with the trashiest of prime time. And I’ll gladly join them; because however horrible the candidates are, it is bloody entertaining.

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  1. avatar

    Brilliantly summised. The only thing I’d add is the increasing absurdity of the editing each series. I don’t know if you know of cassetteboy (youtube him if you don’t – he’s brilliant) but it appears he’s now been taken on as staff. The continuity people can’t even be bothered to pretend any more that the reaction of Character B was even shot on the same day as the gaff of Character A. As for the music… I’m pretty sure they took one tune from the Crash Bandicoot soundtrack. If they haven’t got the Benny Hill theme tune next series I’ll be mortified.

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