Has ‘The Apprentice’ served its time?

Daniel Leigh and Yema Stowell 28 October 2014

Yes, argues Daniel Leigh:

The Apprentice is not, and never was, a show about business.  It is a reality show where supposedly entertaining people are made to do supposedly entertaining things. And this is where the problem lies for the most recent series.

Back in the day The Apprentice boasted a cast of hilarious and ridiculous characters. Tuning in to watch Syed Ahmed order 100 chickens to top 100 pizzas, Simon Ambrose (Magdalene’s most illustrious alumnus) make unfortunate comments while assembling a trampoline over his crotch, Rory Laing insist that he is Tre Azam’s boss, Katie Hopkins channel the forces of Hell and Michael Sophocles not know the meaning of ‘Kosher’ despite claiming his Jewish heritage on his CV (something to this day I refuse to believe was a genuine occurrence on the show), was an absolute delight. It even made The Apprentice: You’re Fired seem like a good use of your time.

All of these characters appeared in series 2-4. We are now in series 10, and aside from the wonderful anomaly that was Stuart Baggs ‘The Brand’ with his field of metaphorical ponies, no one has come close to being that entertaining. Now you just get the same types each year acting predictably. Although I admit the tasks are still quite fun, watching a bunch of boring stereotypes try and work out who should take responsibility for failing to identify a gap in an overcrowded market, designing a product to fill that gap and then pitching that product to real retailers in two or three days, a task that has nothing to do with business because it tests no skills in a reasonable way, is completely uninteresting. And this takes up half of the show.

So that’s why I don’t watch The Apprentice anymore.

No, argues Yema Stowell:

“There’s no I in team – famous saying. But there’s five in individual brilliance” claims Daniel Lassman, in the latest series of BBC 1’s The Apprentice. It is the same sort of over-confident, ridiculous saying that comes up in every single series of this heated, but truly brilliant show. Yet, on the face of it, there is very little to sell The Apprentice to someone who’s never seen it. It’s essentially a show where a group of brash business types, all of whom think they’re the bee’s knees when it comes to just about anything and everything, compete to try and become Lord Sugar’s next business partner. It’s not quite how it was – after all, I can’t ever imagine another Apprentice star taking their shoes off to dance their business pitch (cringe), let alone another Rory declaring quite majestically the words, “I AM your boss”.

But, while the premise of the show may have changed and the boardroom scenes admittedly still drag on, the hilarity and bizarreness of each week’s challenge still makes fantastic TV. Take this series' Apprentice first when Robert was fired before any of the ‘bottom three’ were taken back into the boardroom – even Katie Hopkins didn’t get that treatment.

The Apprentice has opened up, and continues to open up, the world of business in a compelling, if slightly unrealistic way, while remaining incredibly entertaining throughout. Whether it’s Philip singing the ‘Pants Man’ theme tune or last series’ Neil Clough suddenly winning the support of thousands after his heartfelt, motivational speech, The Apprentice continues to deliver.