thu 18/08/2022

The Apprentice, Series 8, BBC One/ You're Fired!, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

The Apprentice, Series 8, BBC One/ You're Fired!, BBC Two

The Apprentice, Series 8, BBC One/ You're Fired!, BBC Two

Thoroughly welcome return of the addictive reality TV show and its offspring

Lord Sugar is back with his 'eyes and ears' Karren Brady and Nick Hewer

You may think that, eight series in, applicants for The Apprentice would rein it in a bit. Overblown egos, fantastical verbal imagery to describe their always unique talents, hyperbolic self-assessment - we had all of those, and so much more, in last night's hugely enjoyable series opener. Welcome to another bunch of hopelessly, and hilariously, deluded men and women in search of Lord Sugar's £250,000 investment.

No longer about a serious search for a young business person or entrepreneur - it stopped being that in, oh, series three, perhaps? - The Apprentice is now pure entertainment but, amazingly, the producers can still find 16 people (pictured below) prepared to be made to look like nincompoops for our televisual pleasure.

But thankfully this isn't about humiliation or allowing the audience to wallow in smug superiority (even if we all have occasional moments of that). The Apprentice doesn't have the crassness of the later series of Big Brother, or the staged nonsense of those 15-minutes-of-famers on The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea. It's less cruel than BB, more real (accepting that all things in this genre are relative) than Towie or MiC. Instead we get to play amateur psychologist, analysing who's going to stab whom in the back, who's marked out from week one as a winner, or who's going to come up the blindside and quietly impress Lord Sugar and his “eyes and ears”, assistants Karren Brady and Nick Hewer. And at the same time we can have an amusing side bet on who will be canned in the boardroom each week, or which contestant will walk away with Lord Shug's quarter-mill at the end of the 12-week series.

Last night's starting hopefuls were in deliciously amusing metaphor overdrive, likening themselves to a member of the animal kingdom - “I will literally [note that literally!] roar my way to the top”; “I'm like a shark. I'm right at the top of the food chain” - while others went for plain old soundbite tosh: “I'm better than unique. I'm naturally gifted in business”; “I truly am the reflection of perfection.” Oh my, how we laughed. Of course, these over-the-credits speeches are deliberately taken out of context, but they serve to illustrate the huge importance of superb editing in The Apprentice's success.

The 16 new hopefuls were housed in a Bayswater mansion, large enough, said one knowingly “to house all our egos”. As per, Lord Sugar divided the two teams into boys and girls, who now call themselves Phoenix and Sterling respectively. (Not so sure about the boys' name, as it suggests there's some crashing and burning to come before any possible resurrection.) The first task was simple enough - setting up a print business where they had to design logos to be printed on items such as T-shirts and tote bags, and then sell them to the great British public. Alas, still no one has explained the difference between a comparative and a superlative to Lord Sugar, so he told the two teams that whoever “makes the biggest amount of profit” wins the task.

While Phoenix members were busily not putting themselves forward to be team leader, over on Sterling, Gabrielle immediately put her hand up, saying although she's an architect by training she had also started her own print business, so it seemed a good fit. Except it wasn't. She turned out to be a reluctant decision-maker and a very bad delegator and so the team imploded, arguing amongst themselves, choosing a bad location to sell their product and ganging up on a hapless shop assistant as they desperately tried to offload their unsold gear as the task deadline loomed. The shop owner was outraged.

On Phoenix, the boys were a mess of a different kind. Nick (who is 25 but looks 12) and describes himself as a technology entrepreneur (no, me neither) was the team leader, great on the financial details but woefully bad on design and with a team who couldn't operate a print machine without getting themselves and their products covered in paint in all the wrong places. Yet, with a far inferior product but great teamwork, they resoundingly won – which, for any budding business brain out there, is an important lesson surely.

Gabrielle brought in Bilyana (pictured above, responsible for the wrong choice of location) and Katie, who described herself as “a blonde assassin” but who contributed naff-all to the task. After some heated exchanges during which Bilyana just wouldn't shut up, she got the bullet that Katie surely missed.

Bilyana, who described herself as having escaped from "a communist block of flats in Bulgaria to the top of a skyscraper in the heart of the City of London", appeared immediately after on BBC Two in The Apprentice: You're Fired!, which was, as ever, as good as the mother programme itself. Presenter Dara Ó Bríain has just the right combination of gentle mockery and incisive comment - “You talked yourself out of the door,” he told Bilyana. Katie – the "one that got away" in their regular slot - had been mentally "sorting her luggage", he said. Brilliant.

A thoroughly welcome return for both programmes, and addictive viewing yet again.

  • The Apprentice and You're Fired! continue each Wednesday

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