Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down

The Apprentice 7th May 2013

8 May 2013 by Nicholas in TV

The British version of The Apprentice is back and Alan Sugar seems more bad tempered with fewer rehearsed lines. The would be businessmen and women performing to impress him have either been coached to be bad parodies of stereotypes or are unremittingly awful. Or both. So, naturally, it made for entertaining TV.

I’m convinced the structure of each episode is determined by what happens at the end of the episode. Who goes is decided by Sugar from 3 people: the leader of the losing team and 2 people they have identified as responsible for the failure of the task. Therefore enough has to be shown that at least one of these appears a reasonable (but not runaway) choice.

Moreover, in order to create any suspense, which team lost the task should be debatable and possibly even a shock. Thus the editors of the program have to pick about 40 minutes of footage from at least 32 hours of footage (2 sub teams each from 2 main teams for at least 8 hours of activity.) They also have to make it entertaining. What they don’t have to do is make it balanced, fair or representative.

Last night was a good example: one team was made to look rife with internal conflict which would make them unlikely to win in order for their result to be more of a surprise. On the losing side one moment was massively emphasised just to justify someone’s presence in the bottom 3. There were probably dozens of similar or more significant moments throughout the day that escaped being aired just because they had no thematic link to the eventual decision.

The task itself also seemed slightly dishonest. Nothing teams were supposedly given a full container of mixed products from China to sell over the course of 16 hours. Leaving aside I’m surprised some of the items could be shipped that distance cost effectively considering their bulk, ease of production and low value, there clearly was nothing like a container’s worth of product to be disposed of.

The teams supposedly tried selling against their theoretical RRP. Some of which were clearly massively inflated in order to convince the end customer they were saving money rather than buying anything of intrinsic value.

The task really should have focused on profit. Ridiculous and time consuming decisions were made that had me rolling my eyes. Trying to sell products to the wrong customers exacerbated this. And repeatedly over valuing one particular line made me wonder if anyone knew their true costs.

But it was compelling. I don’t know who I like yet but I have a fair idea who I can’t stand. Everything moves at a fair lick and there’s the certain knowledge there are things you can do better than people who consider themselves exceptional. It’s not how business really works and that is what helps to make it so entertaining. Just don’t believe it and don’t take it seriously. That’s what straight fiction is for.