The Apprentice – “YOU’RE FLAWED”

Like most people who, with a modicum of common sense, have watched this programme in the past, I’ve gone full “Gogglebox” and ranted, raved and seriously considered putting my boot through the screen. The trouble is it used to be good “car-crash” TV watching the hapless hopefuls compete for a lucrative job within the Sugar-coated empire.

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However, the original concept has now changed, presumably because there were no more jobs at Amstrad or genuine fears about Employment Tribunals for unfair dismissal by the totally inept winning candidate.

The thing is if the old format had its issues the new format is so wildly off point it genuinely doesn’t make any sense at all.

If you have managed by choice or circumstance to have missed “The Apprentice”, the premise is as follows: Twenty youngish (mostly under 30) people, ten girls and ten boys compete against each other in teams. Each week they are given different tasks to prove their business abilities. At the end of each task, one two or three are eliminated until there is only one “man” standing. The winner is then presented with £250,000 of Lord Alan’s own “dosh” to invest in a business that they wish to start. They also get the dubious pleasure of having His Lordship as an equal partner who makes no bones about the fact that he will contribute nothing apart from the money…if you believe that statement from an obvious control freak then please respond to the email from that nice lady in Africa who wants to split her inheritance with you

So what is exactly wrong with the new format? So much…just so much, I’m struggling to know where to start.

Let’s begin with the candidates.

I can see the production office now: “Ok guys we need at least 6 really hot girls and 6 really fit guys. One geeky bloke and one geeky bird. We should really cover the gay market so see if we can get at least one of them…the “camper” the better. Better not forget minorities so make sure there’s at least one Asian, one Black, one Jew, one Muslim and if we can find an Oriental that would be great. Oh and while you’re at it see if you can sort someone with a seedy back story…if they’ve got a sex tape out there – brilliant!”.

“Yes Justin, we’re on it but what about their actual business acumen and the viability of their business plan?”

“Don’t worry about that. We can always beef up the CVs and the business plan won’t even matter until we are down to the last three or four. Couple more things, make sure they’ve all got designer wardrobes and don’t mind getting their kit off if they get sent to a spa or a beach. Everybody clear?”

“Yes Justin”.

The Smuggest Hot Tub

We are led to believe that these “chosen ones” all have some credentials that make them worthy to participate. The normal bunch consists of owners of “successful “businesses, corporate high flyers or graduates with first class degrees in appropriate disciplines.

Well, I don’t know about you but if I was running a successful business or had a highly paid corporate role the last thing I could afford to do is to bugger off for twelve weeks on the off chance I may end up the winner.

Even more importantly if the candidates are shown to be useless, which they invariably are, who the hell would employ them after they’ve been shown to fail monumentally on network TV?

Then we have the tasks.

Each week they are given a challenge to illustrate leadership skills, team work, intelligence and the ability to turn a profit.

Some of these challenges are so unrealistic it beggars belief!

There’s always a catering jaunt which predictably involves the best looking girls in killer heels approaching city blokes in the street trying to tempt them with over priced – delete where applicable – sandwiches, soup, hot dogs, cakes, lunch boxes etc. This one always ends up with them dropping the prices to almost nothing ‘cos they overpriced themselves in the first place.

Other regulars include a re-cycling project, event organising, a tourist trap, something involving I.T (give the geeks a chance to shine…they normally don’t), a buy it low sell it high gig and my absolutely personal favourite – the “create a product and sell it to the major retailers”. Nothing about this particular task is in any way plausible.

His Lordship tells our captains of commerce to invent a new product in a particular category. They get the benefit of design teams and manufacturing resources. When they have the completed article they are set loose in front of three major retailers to pitch the product. The team with the most orders wins. All this in three days…really!

The Project Manager rallies his troops. At first they come up with several useless ideas. The PM decides on the least useless and it’s game on. A sub-team is sent off to get opinions on the product from a focus group. The focus group hates it …the PM ignores the feedback.

48 hours later the prototype is delivered complete with custom packaging and the motley crew jump in their executive people carriers to face the buyers.

The team argue about who will pitch. There is always one who completely screws it up and stutters embarrassingly and there is always one who “over eggs” it and clearly gets right up the buyers noses.

Pitches over it is back to the boardroom to get the results.

This is the bit that totally infuriates me. The winning team is the one that got the most orders on a product that doesn’t actually exist. They have not sourced volume manufacturers, they have no idea on cost price, profit margin, delivery dates, quality control or carriage costs but somehow three major retailers have booked (or not if they hate it) future orders. Give me a break!

However, none of this matters when compared to the actual “raison d’etre”. These guys have all presented a business plan for their dream business before the process starts. From the comments in the boardroom it is blatantly obvious that the plans have already been seen by “Big A”. Do you honestly believe that he is going to invest his own money into a scheme that he has no faith in. Consequently, irrespective of all the tasks and boardroom shenanigans the odds are that the only candidates that actually stand a hope in hell’s chance of getting to the final are those with a concept and prospectus that shows at least a decent chance of success.

One comment in the series so far enforced my scepticism majestically. When a female candidate was asked what research she did when preparing the material for her potential online dating business she replied – “ I joined a dating site”!.

It is for that reason, that unfortunately I have to tell you -The Apprentice – as a concept..you’re tired.

The-Apprentice--Sir-Alan-Sugar