The Apprentice

‘Reality TV’ is an odd way to describe The Apprentice, really. On the one hand, it’s as much a drooling fantasy about money and power as Dallas or Dynasty. On the other, it’s clearly intended as a satire – a cautionary, Bonfire of the Vanities-style tale of greed, ambition and toxic levels of hubris.

The big question is: who’s in on the joke? At the start of this 12th series, the new candidates faced off in a kind of arms race of swaggering one-upmanship. ‘I’m the business equivalent of a diamond,’ said the implausibly named Dillon St Paul. ‘I can sparkle, but if you’re not careful, I could cut you.’ Which is possibly the campest threat ever made on British television. ‘I’m an emperor, a true leader,’ claimed IT consultant Karthik. ‘A country is not enough. A continent is not enough. I’m after the world!’ Steady on, you’ll do yourself a mischief. Baking company boss Alana, meanwhile, went for the more direct approach: ‘All I’ve ever been interested in is having as much money and power as I can.’ Gosh, how… attractive.

So yes, everyone in The Apprentice is ridiculous. But do they know they’re ridiculous? Are they serious, or are they playing to the gallery? It’s hard to say, which I suppose is what makes it so watchable (because, let’s be honest, on paper the premise offers all the giddy thrill of a 12-week PowerPoint presentation).

I can’t help feeling Lord Sugar genuinely believes his own publicity, though. He’s the sort of man who says ‘boardroom’ like it’s an aphrodisiac. ‘If you want to moan,’ he growled at this year’s fresh meat, ‘you can send me an email at’ He thought that was funny. He’s David Brent with a Rolls, basically.

Anyway, despite all the sexy corporate talk and hero shots of Canary Wharf, the actual first task was a car boot sale, which I don’t recall Alexis Colby ever doing. It was less Wolf of Wall Street, more Bargain Hunt. Except, of course, this show has a boardroom. Phwooaar!

TV extra:


The People’s History of Pop

The latest in this occasional fans’-eye view of rock and roll covered the years 1978 to 1985, when Britain had more tribes than the Amazon rainforest. Veteran punks, mods, rockers, Teds, skinheads, New Romantics and indie kids all lined up to tell their war stories. My favourite was the guy who stood and painted pictures of The Clash from the side of the stage. Certainly puts your fuzzy smartphone pic of Ed Sheeran into perspective, doesn’t it?


Bridget and Eamon

Is this 80s-set Irish sitcom, based on characters created for an RTÉ sketch show, hoping to bottle a little of Agnes Brown’s lightning? Starring Jennifer Zamparelli (in specs the size of patio doors) and Bernard O’Shea as a bickering Catholic couple with 68 kids, it’s less cartoonish than Brendan O’Carroll’s Marmite smash hit – but only a bit. This week’s opener was a kind of Breaking Bad spoof, with Bridget dealing condoms instead of crystal meth. You get the idea.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, October 13, 2016

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