Review: The Apprentice 4×1

Learning to be a ponce

In the UK: Wednesdays, 9pm, BBC1

Sir Alan’s back. Hasn’t he learnt his lesson yet? Honestly.

You take a group of salespeople, who, let’s face it, have an above average chance of being the scum of the earth and ask them to apply to be on a reality TV show. Since the good ones will all be earning very nice salaries at very nice companies, only the ones not doing so well (and who will therefore lie on their CV) and the most arrogant, preening twannocks with pebbles for brains will apply.

They get whittled down by the production team into the best group of ‘personalities’ possible, the ones guaranteed to be obnoxious, evil, sociopathic, incompetent idiots, usually with the kind of accents that can start class war in 70% of London boroughs as soon as they open their mouths. 

And then Sir Alan has to work out which of these creatures from the black sales lagoon he wants to employ by the end of the series.

I don’t envy him.

This year’s no different. Well, it’s slightly different. The actress/model who runs Sir Alan’s reception has been upgraded to a blonde model and so far, no one’s equipped her with an Amstrad phone – presumably because he’s sold the computer business.

The music’s different too, which is a little upsetting. I liked the old music. Where’s it gone?

And there’s also a touch of the Property Ladder/Grand Designs, all of a sudden, with the narrator practically creaming himself over a two-minute long explanation of the new house that all the contestants are going to be living in.

As for the show itself, that’s the same. Nick and Margaret are there to roll their eyes and look scathing. Sir Alan’s there to rip the idiots a new one every time they mess up. And boy do they mess up.

We started with the teams picking names, which was of course the opportunity for everyone to show off just how incredibly, incredibly better they were than everyone else. The women came up with Team Alpha, because of “alpha male” and because alpha is first in the Greek alphabet and looks a bit like a fish (as everyone who’s ever followed a car equipped with a Christian bumper sticker will know). 

The men, after trying out various names that might as well have had strutting subtitles to explain the obvious sub-text (“Team Man Rod”, “No, Team Pork Sword”, “No, Team Thrust”), eventually settled on Team Renaissance rather than Team Gravitas, which even the ponce who came up with it unrepentantly agreed was pretentious.

This week, they were trying to sell fish. Everyone decides Islington market – you know, round the back of M&S and Boots – is the best place to sell fish. Would that, perhaps, be because you all know Islington very well, you toffee-nosed ponces, and don’t want to venture anywhere like Brixton, even though you all started off in West London? Or is it merely because that was the only place the Beeb could get filming permission?

I do worry about this though. The idiots all messed up their pricing so they were massively undercutting all the local traders. One trader had already had to give up the best pitch to Team Alpha – did the Beeb recompense them and the other traders? I do hope so.

After the boys (I refuse to call them men) lose quite convincingly after trying to flog their last load of lobsters to an office of solicitors – you morons – the girls get to have a meal cooked for them by Jean Christoph Novelli back at their (five minutes of licky adjectives) new house. I’m guessing none of them were veggies, judging by the Who-Beast feast given to them.

The boys get summoned by Sir Alan to explain themselves. After a ritual backstabbing by everyone, team leader Alex, Gravitas ponce, and an evil git lawyer called Nicholas are returned to the boadroom. Nicholas is the kind of snivelling little **** who still has flashbacks to his dismal B grade GCSE at night, because it was just so humiliating. Nicholas declares that there was a rift in the team: it was a cultural split between the ‘educated’ and… he doesn’t get much further, after the entire country votes at once to club him like a baby seal, while team leader Alex points out that he does have a degree actually, thank you, so what exactly does he mean by ‘uneducated’, Apparently, Nicholas equates uneducated with liking football, which is a cultural gap that splits the group in twain like the sword of Solomon.

Although I initially gambled that Alex, who’s a little bit of a charisma vacuum, was going to get the boot since he was likely to make less interesting TV than either Gravitas or Nicholas, Sir Alan thankfully has heard enough to want Nicholas kicked out quickly so he can have a contract taken out on him ASAP. Well done, Sir Alan, but you’ve still got Gravitas to deal with for another week.

All in all, I’m still waiting for a favourite to emerge. There appear to be the usual evil geniuses on both sides of the gender divide, but no one has yet demonstrated much competence. Let’s wait and see. 

I’m also less than keen on the tinkering with the format. Stick with the music, the nice direction and the business: let Sarah Beeny do her thing – she’s better at it.

PS Why would any kid want to become a business person after watching The Apprentice? I’m worried this programme is going to single-handedly cripple our economy. Still, I guess you need to be a bit of a cheating weasel to be in sales, so maybe we’ll end up getting the future weasels we need, who no doubt count most of the contestants as role models.