TV

You're tired! Isn't it long past time 'The Apprentice' went into retirement?

After 14 seasons the business-styled reality game show still gets huge ratings. It's baffling – but Lucy Sweet can't stop watching either...

Innovation. Solution-based. Optimal. Meaningless words for meaningless business people. They run the place, have no attention to detail, say ‘utilised’ instead of used, yet have supernatural confidence, despite having less originality than your average WordArt template.

People like this circulate within every boardroom of Britain. (They’re organising Brexit for us, too, which is nice.) This raw and painful familiarity must be why The Apprentice continues to be so popular. Despite never changing an iota of its format, it’s STILL rumbling on, like a small wheelie suitcase interminably trundling down a travelator towards a Premier Inn near the ExCel.

These people give not one per cent, not 100 per cent, not even 110 per cent. In this, latest series, one of the contestants claims they give “150 million per cent”. That’s a lot of per cents, I’m sure you’ll agree.

And we sit at home after a hard day at work and watch them. What a bunch of masochists we are! You’d think we wouldn’t want to take it home with us. You’d think we would scream at the very thought of two teams called Blue Sky Thinking and Synergy selling doughnuts in Borough Market, or ineptly navigating a deal to buy 200 rhinestone bikinis at a bodybuilding convention. We spend 40 hours a week with spreadsheets, office politics and colleagues who think Katie Hopkins has a point, actually, and yet we still lap it up in our spare time.

Then you add Lord Sugar into this turgid mix, saying things like “I want winners not whingers, workers not shirkers” like a pound-shop Davros, and the circle of hell is complete. Last week, when a woman couldn’t sell anything, he said: “You couldn’t give away prosecco on a hen night.” (He neglected to add “darlin’” but someone in the production team has probably had
a word.)

We spend 40 hours a week with spreadsheets, office politics and colleagues who think Katie Hopkins has a point, actually, and yet we still lap it up in our spare time

Of course, we’re meant to laugh at the contestants and praise the experts and the big cheeses for seeing through their bluster. We’ve been laughing for over a decade now, though, and it’s starting to have a hollow ring. There are no experts any more, the world is run by fiendishly self-interested self-made barrow boys and everything is going to hell. There is woman in this series called Camilla who sells nut milk and I couldn’t even bring myself to laugh about that (actually, LOL, nut milk).

So far in series 14 they’ve made the usual mistakes, have been undone by hubris and Karren Brady’s eyebrows have been as quizzical as ever. However, there was one rare moment of reflective wisdom amongst all the shouting. Sarah, one of the hopeful candidates, summed it up. She said: “We are where we are.”

Yes, Sarah. We are. But how do we get to somewhere better? Please, could you show me some kind of PowerPoint that explains what we do next?

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