Sunday, 26 October 2014


This article was originally published in The Courier on 25th October 2014.

The Apprentice: Wednesday, BBC One

Paul Whitelaw

Despite being in its tenth year, it's clear that most Apprentice candidates have never seen The Apprentice before in their lives. How else to explain their complete inability to learn from the blunders of previous hopefuls?

Or is it simply that anyone foolish enough to apply for The Apprentice in the first place is so tragically lacking in self-awareness, they can't appreciate it in the same way as the rest of us? They take it seriously. That's their tragedy.

Funnier than most actual sitcoms, The Apprentice is essentially a comedy, edited and manipulated for maximum farce. Though it may initially have maintained some thin pretence of having anything to do with serious business practice, the makers realised years ago that no one, apart from the grasping candidates themselves, viewed it as anything other than a cringe-inducing showcase for eminently mockable buffoons.

We watch it because, when viewed in light of these narcissistic bozos, it makes us feel better about ourselves as human beings. We're all idiotic in our own way, of course, but at least we're not as hopeless as these people.

Is it cruel? Not really. Unlike The X Factor, where those lined up for mockery are all too often harmless and vulnerable, The Apprentice carefully selects a group of risible fools who basically deserve to be mocked. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Take James, a stand-out character so far on account of his mouthy, arrogant, pea-brained pronouncements and uncanny resemblance to woman-fearing humour vacuum Dapper Laughs (if you don't know who that is, then I urge you to remain oblivious). James is a typical Apprentice contestant in that he does everything a competent candidate – and such anomalies do exist – shouldn't. Mistakenly overconfident, he never listens to instructions due to an aggressive belief in his own verbal diarrhoea.

Last week he committed the cardinal sin of, while pleading for his life in the boardroom, obsequiously comparing himself to Lord Sugar. James! Don't you know that this is one of Sugar's pet peeves? Evidently not. James is oblivious. Sugar eventually told him to shut up. “Definitely, Lord Sugar,” he replied. What a twit.

Of course, one of the show's most consistently comical participants is Sugar himself. The deference the candidates pay towards this brogue-faced millionaire barrow boy is hilarious, as are, for entirely the wrong reasons, the belligerent prune's own attempts at humour. His scripted quips get more excruciating by the year. I'm certain his writers are giving him any old gibberish for a backstage bet now. “Never mind Aloe Vera, looks like it's more of a case of goodbye Sarah.” I mean, I ask you.

As for the rest of the contestants, only a few stand out at this stage. Roisin is James' archetypal opposite in that she's clearly a capable contender, while Sarah Millican soundalike Katie appears to be this year's token 'nice one'. Whenever she talked about profits and margins during the most recent task, she sounded like a child consulting My First Business Kit from Mattel.

Elsewhere there's Daniel, who clearly thinks he's Don Draper. He looks more like Fred Flintstone summoned for court. Mark is a constipated Ben Affleck, or, if you prefer, a wrestler who's turned up at the wrong Christening, while Steven is already shaping up to be one of the most overbearingly delusional contestants in Apprentice history.

Even after ten years of unchanging formula, I do so love this ridiculous programme. 

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