Life & Culture

The Apprentice TV review: Sorry, Lord Sugar, our relationship is finished

With casting by Instagram and a new policy of insisting the candidates are all fresh and young, after 17 seasons together, is it time to call it quits with the business show?


The Apprentice,05-01-2023,Iconics & Portraits,Lord Sugar,**Embargoed until 00.01hrs 12th December 2022**,Fremantle Media Limited ,Ray Burmiston

The Apprentice
BBC 1 | ★★✩✩✩

There’s always a danger in long-term relationships that one day your partner will just look over at you, and go: “Meh.”

Worse than that, even under protestations that you haven’t changed, that essentially you’re still the same, they might even wonder what it was about you they ever saw in the first place.

Every relationship has highs and lows, but after 17 seasons together, is it time to call it quits with The Apprentice?

I was so happy last year when it returned after a little break, absence having made the heart grow fonder. Yet as this year’s opening credits roll, and the candidates attempt to out-hyperbole one another — “I’m the James Bond of the business world”, “I’m the Kim Kardashian of the business world”, spoiler alert, they’re not the Bond or Kardashian of anything — it’s not “ick” I’m filled with, but worse, indifference.

On the face of it, it’s business as usual. Sir Alan’s having fun with his Catskills patter, dropping pearlers like “Your CVs have more fantasy than Lord of the Rings”, and for the cool kids, “There’s more crap here than a Glastonbury toilet.” Karren pouts disapprovingly at dubious decision-making.

Claude is back and looking svelte as his face variously fluctuates between sceptical and incredulous. (On a side note, I met him once at shul, he was very nice and I’m pretty certain he even smiled.)

The producers try to suck us in by blowing the series budget on the first episode, with a task in Antigua selling and running expensive day trips. I suspect this might have backfired though, with the relentlessly excited and positive American tourists hardly providing much of a challenge for the teams.

To really test their mettle and for great telly they would have been better off going to Israel, but then again, would a £250,000 investment prize really be enough of an enticement to attempt appeasing a Jewish tour group?

The real mistake, though, is that in an effort to stay fresh and young, someone had the bright idea that all the candidates needed to be fresh and young.

This is casting as done by Instagram and, surprise surprise, it turns out that youth isn’t a substitute for personality. Perhaps they also hoped that a young enough cast might never have seen the show and thus know the pitfalls to avoid, like making definitive statements. “Sixteen tickets isn’t much to sell” certainly has the ring of famous last words.

But by the scene near the end as three women with identikit outfits and long blonde hair half-heartedly squabble about who should be up for the chop, not only can you not work out who’s who, you realise that you don’t care because they don’t.

By dropping any pretence of this being a business show, there’s the sense that the candidates would prefer to become apprentices of taking selfies and (for the boys) manicuring stubble. So as good as they may look, I’m sorry to say, it’s over.

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