The Apprentice: Why hasn’t this series worked?

by | May 9, 2012 | All, Reviews

Guest Blogger Will Downes looks at the current run of the reality favourite.

Perhaps it’s all a facade, but it seems that The Apprentice is a fairly difficult thing to win. I’m always amazed  that anyone comes out the other side, their mouths still stretching into a smile as they are presented with their vague prize, which used to be a job, but now is the business equivalent of a book-voucher.

I used to hate what The Apprentice gave its winner; that job. Brilliant. Actually, a job is brilliant, but not when it’s a prize at the end of the TV show. It’s like winning a game of football and receiving an acre of the moon as a prize. “Give me three points!” the footballer cries. “Give me £100,000!” the Apprentice winner cries. Because that’s what the prize was, £100,000. It just happened to be strapped to a meaningless job in a sub-division of Amstrad.

But now the winner gets something that I can’t apply for here on the internet, a business partnership with Lord Alan of Sugar. It’s fairly excellent, really, a leap over Westminster Abbey for someone with a good enough idea. But from such reform has come a lesser show; a flimsy, episodic, forgettable show. 

There was a moment in Big Brother a few years back when they decided to show a few of the contestants their housemates’ audition tapes. It was wonderful and mean, an insight into the characters these people had created. The longer these shows go on, the more time prospective participants have to hone their pitch. Big Brother likes wacky individuals, and what the housemates saw were these archetypes of the show, exact photo-fits of what we had come to expect from a Big Brother contestant. But this presentation came as the competition was starting to wind down. They’d spent a lot of time with these people, learnt what was meant when they said they “were just being themselves”. It’s difficult to keep up the act, and once you’re in you’re in. It was no surprise that audition tape and reality were more than different.

The problem Big Brother has is that a large proportion of the show is made up of a group of people lounging around. Actually, The Apprentice has tried that this series. On more than one occasion it has begun with the contestants enjoying a game of table tennis, or chatting about how fellow-apprentice Ricky Martin’s wrestling background could well be a shoddy veil for an ironic love of Latin music. Either way, we’re supposed to believe that this competition takes over their lives. But the Apprentices are not on this show for the nice house and musical conversation, they are there to better their lives, or at the very least become minor celebrities…


..Introducing ‘You’re Fired’. I’ve avoided this show this series, despite it being a thoroughly pleasant half-hour. You see the issue with ‘You’re Fired’ is that it gives these people a platform to be a self-deprecating bunch who appear immeasurably embarrassed about being on the show. They shake their heads as the “expert” reveals their mis-calculations, poor marketing strategies and dismal sales pitches. They aren’t delusional, or at least most of them aren’t. They are presentable, coherent, intelligent individuals whose only apparent mistake is that they thought they could win The Apprentice. This is brilliant, a triumph, but I’ve just watched a group of delusional buffoons. What the hell happened to them?

Though my opinion of the prize has shot up, the mysterious business’  these people have outlined in the files only Lord Sugar, Karen Brady and Nick Hewer can see are unknown. We see their names and their current jobs, that’s it. What they have in mind would be a welcome addition. I’m assuming the people left have a business-plan Lord Sugar likes the look of, and interestingly it’s hard to see the same type of person making it so far had the programme stuck with the previous prize. It seems that Lord Sugar wants a nutty professor, a character whose creativity is the bastion of their drive and talent. Unfortunately, and I’m surprised about this, they don’t make for the best, and watchable people on television. Actors are actors because, usually, they can act. These people can’t, and it’s probably why they aren’t actors. The Apprentice beams from our television screens with sweeping shots over London, sincere talking heads, and a boss who’s perched high in a fake board-room. It wants to be a film, with actors and a baddie. It isn’t a film, it doesn’t contain actors, and I’ve read the guys Tweets.

I didn’t want my positive feelings about The Apprentice to have exhausted themselves with the contestants, and thankfully it seems that so much more has led to the show’s demise. Perhaps I’m just bored, looking back over the good times with an optimistic eye that will have faith in this show as long as it runs. But these things do go down-hill, and I’m afraid The Apprentice may have. I’ll tune in tonight, sure, but I already don’t care that much about it.

Contributed by Will Downes 

The Apprentice continues Wednesday’s at 9.00pm on BBC1 with The Junior Apprentice set for the autumn.

Follow Will on Twitter.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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