Every so often you stumble across a dream job, one that almost sounds too good to be true. Where you question, surely you can’t have that much fun in the work place? And you start imagining what it must be like to live that life. For us, that job is the casting director of The Apprentice, who each year gets to handpick some of Britain’s biggest plonkers to go and humiliate themselves on national TV, and get shouted at by Alan Sugar.
The classic reality show is a hit every season, as the nation tunes in to watch overly confident aspiring entrepreneurs try and persuade cranky Lord Sugar that they’ve got what it takes to make it big in business. And there’s a lot at stake here – whoever wins gets two hundred and fifty grand of investment from the big man himself. The only problem is, they’ve got to make it through several weeks of increasingly ridiculous challenges, and ominous “you’re fired” finger pointing to get to the cash at the end of the reality TV rainbow.
To be honest, every year we’re surprised that Sugar is willing to risk quite such a large lump of cash on one of these contestants, who are known for being complete nitwits – for reference, the now infamous columnist Katie Hopkins was on the show in 2006, and that went exactly how you’d expect it to. In fact, the candidates are so ridiculous that the internet is littered with lists of the most hilarious quotes from Apprentice candidates – our favourites are “my first word wasn’t mummy, it was money” and “everything I touch turns to sold” – and clips of their outrageous antics.
But that is a reflection of how brilliantly entertaining this show is. Nobody is really watching it for the business acumen, hoping to get some tips and tricks on starting their own side hustle. We’re watching it for the drama, the office gossip, and the cracking quotes. All of which are plenty on The Apprentice.
It’s been on our screens since 2005, and we’ve had fifteen seasons of fun since then. At least most of us have, The Times’s Hugo Rifkind, however, not so much. He says “Sugar is the least annoying person on The Apprentice, a small miracle that I don’t think gets nearly enough attention,” going on to call the contestants “arseholes.” And The Guardian’s Sam Wollaston is with him on that last part, expanding on Rifkind’s statement to call them “tossers” with “wheelie suitcases stuffed full of confidence and bullshit.” Don’t mince your words, will you Wollaston. But some critics have more patience for the show’s silliness. The Telegraph’s Michael Hogan thoroughly enjoys the candidates’ “preposterous boasting… which inevitably comes back to bite them when they’re fired a few weeks later for failing to sell sandwiches.” And despite his strong words, even Wollaston says the series is “undeniably entertaining.”
First shown February 2005.