Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
James Goodall
Features Writer
1:00 AM 14th February 2024

The Apprentice Is Back … Again!

Photo:  Fremantlemedia Limited©
Photo: Fremantlemedia Limited©
Yes, like A Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s the franchise that just keeps on going, if not giving.

So here we are again, series four hundred and ten of The Apprentice. It seems like it's been going since the dawn of time. When will it stop? Will it ever? Even when our planet's a lifeless rock orbiting a long-dead sun, chances are it’ll still be playing out on some rogue space station or malfunctioning satellite somewhere.

Two episodes in, and we’re already going through the motions. Even the scathing reviews are becoming a cliché – and here I am, adding to the problem.

Why does Lord Sugar do it? It’s as if he’s on some grand godlike mission, perhaps building an ark to be crewed exclusively by business-savvy superhumans. He phones through to the waiting lounge to invite the candidates in, even though it’s a ten-second walk to the door. Meanwhile, Karren Brady and Tim Campbell laugh sycophantically at his every word. Tim, of course, is a former Apprentice winner (Season One, no less), and it’s nice to see him again. But all the same, it's a bit ‘Hotel California’ in the sense that one can check out of the boardroom but never really leave.

I wouldn't mind, but the format of the programme altered quite some time ago. Technically, it’s no longer The Apprentice; it's The Business Partner, but that doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it? So Lord Sugar’s no longer looking for a new member of staff, a fledgling newbie with potential; he’s seeking someone ready-made with an innovative business idea, preferably with a track record and some success already under their belt. Which begs the question: what’s the point in adhering to the original format, putting the candidates through weeks of challenges only for the penultimate episode to turn into Dragons Den? The candidates would be better off appearing on that show and receiving an answer there and then. It seems pointless a candidate demonstrating their potential over ten weeks only to be turned down at the final hurdle because the investor isn’t mad about their idea for novelty cat flaps.

So the opening episode tends to open with a bang. A glamorous location. The Scottish Highlands, this time. It creates the false impression that the rest of the series is going to be of a similar calibre. But, come episode two, we’re back to the usual formula: the same old candidates, the same in-fighting, the same tasks, and negotiation skills that would make a child in a sweet shop blush. The puns don't get any better, either: “So, your friends call you Del Boy. Is that because you’re a bit of a plonker?” Oscar Wilde, eat your heart out.

And why is the losing team always relegated to that miserable café? We always see them there, dolefully stirring cups of grey tea. If I were in their shoes, I’d either say I’m off to the pub or, at the very least, order a fry up whilst the others fight it out.

One almost gets the impression Lord Sugar himself is fed up now. Does he really need to do it? Need he even turn up? He does take what chances he can to duck out every now and then. We occasionally see a pre-filmed video at the start of an episode where he says, “Sorry, I can't be there with you today. I’ve had some urgent business to attend to”. Because that shower curtain won't put itself up, will it? But fair play to him. Does he really need to be there? He could just put up a cardboard cut-out of himself and play a random loop of his catchphrases, and that’d likely carry the day.

Now, I have a love-hate relationship with this programme. I’m a seasoned viewer who’s been there from the start. Many’s the time I’ve watched it, tired of it, and vowed never to watch it again, only to tune in a year or two later as if nothing has happened and all is forgiven. I don’t watch much TV, so it’s reassuring in a way, on the rare occasion I do switch on, to settle back into a programme I remember well, knowing it’ll do what it says on the tin. I suspect I’ll continue to do so for as long as they see fit to make it. But how often can you flog an already long-dead horse?

The Apprentice BBC ONE - Thursdays at 9pm
For more information on Series 18 candidates click here

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