The Apprentice returns

It's the time when a group of hand-picked bright young things descend on the capital, inflated egos stuffed into leather briefcases, bombastic one-liners shoved up sleeves, CVs suitably embellished, and a much-touted readiness to claw their way into Lord Sugar's heart and the nation's homes. The latest series of The Apprentice is the show's 8th outing. Is it still the BBC's prized thoroughbred or just a dead horse ready for another flogging?

There hasn't been any drastic changes to the show's format since it first aired back in 2005, so it's evidently the "colourful" personalities of the contestants that keep viewers coming back. It's fairly easy to recall the standout characters that made last year's show so reliably entertaining: the kooky wide-eyed gaze of winner Tom Pellereau; the "Woman of the Future" Melody Hossaini, who never missed an opportunity to remind us she'd been taught by Al Gore, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama; the icy Scot Jim Eastwood who trumped the mandatory two faces with a calculated five. Then there's the no-nonsense approach of Lord Sugar, Karen Brady and everyone's favourite facial contortionist, Nick Hewer. This year's candidates are notably youthful, the oldest being a sprightly 33. So does this mean our young unemployed will find themselves inspired by a whole set of new role models? I think not.

No one's fooled by the sharp tailoring, the flashy aerial shots and the commanding tones of the faceless receptionist Frances (who is Frances anyway? Does she work part-time? Is she really a man?). Underneath it all, The Apprentice is the crudest of pantomimes, starring statisticians who are flummoxed by measuring cupcake ingredients, marketing execs who fumble their way through presentations, inventors who aren't particularly inventive. Reality TV has reminded us that hubris is hilarious, and that's the enduring appeal of The Apprentice. Not that I'm above all that or anything. To adopt some Hewer gold, I'll probably be on it "like a tramp on chips". The first episode of the new series puts one of the teams in a zoo, so we can easily compare the mental agility of the contestants to that of chimps.

At a glance, this year's candidates are not only young but, dare I say, level-headed, personable and dangerously normal. Walking, talking, cliched person specifications, yes. But deluded and near-maniacal on the level of Baggs "The Brand"? Apparently not: Gabrielle Omar, a 29-year-old architect, has a "trusting nature"; former Head Girl Bilyana Apostolova's greatest weakness is "dealing with confrontation"; and Duayne Bryan's worst confession is that he once pretended to be Tinie Tempah. All very tame. The show had better get a bit more savage than that if it's going to keep bums on seats. "It's not a playground, it's business, says Omar. Sorry, I think you'll find it's TV.

"The Apprentice", series 8, begins tonight on BBC 1 at 9pm.

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Scream Queens: a melting pot of visual references to teen movies and horror films

The TV show’s parodic tone is mirrored in its knowing references to classics of the genres.

The American series Scream Queens is a strange beast: part college drama, part horror, part black comedy, it follows teenagers at a sorority house as a disguised serial killer begins a murderous rampage on campus, picking off a handful of characters each episode. The result: a parade of mean girls in prom dresses, covered in blood and guts. The makers of the show are keen to pay homage to the classics that have influenced them, and many viewers have pointed out deaths that reference major horror films: whether it’s freezing to death in a maze à la The Shining, getting a Hellraiser-esque makeover, or being hacked to tiny pieces in the style of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
But the show takes its teenage dream aesthetic just as seriously, and frequently acknowledges and subverts the tropes and quirks of the high school movie genre, from implicit nods to direct parodies.


Heathers (1988) is an obvious source for Scream Queens: following two outsiders as they systematically murder the most popular kids in school, it’s sardonic, garish and brutally violent. Sorority head Chanel forces her minions to call themselves Chanel #2, Chanel #3, and so on, an overt reference to Heathers's three queen bees (all called Heather). The makers of Scream Queens also repeatedly play with the film’s opening croquet scene in the show’s first episode.

The Craft

Only witches and ritual murderers are that into candles. The teen witch aesthetic of The Craft (1996) continually seeps in to the show, even if it’s at odds with the usual sugary-sweet palette.


It’s hard to think of pretty blonde girls in prom dresses covered in blood without thinking of Carrie (1976). The opening scene of Scream Queens sees a girl in a trance-like state with bloodied hands walking through a pastel party. But in Scream Queens, no one’s that bothered: “I am not missing 'Waterfalls' for this. 'Waterfalls' is my jam.”

Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl (2007-2012) spawned a thousand glossy, bitchy children, and Scream Queens could be its slightly unhinged niece. Chanel #1's silky, preppy wardrobe calls to mind some of Blair's pristine outfits (even if she'd never be seen dead in a pink faux fur jacket), and the sorority house, with its sweeping staircases, soft carpets and luxurious flower arrangements, is strikingly similar to the Waldorf’s apartment. One of the most obvious references to the show is Mrs Bean, Chanel’s maid, who follows in the footsteps of Blair’s maid Dorota, (right down to the old-fashioned uniform). While Blair grows incredibly close with Dorota (she’s maid-of-honour at her wedding), Chanel burns Mrs Bean’s face of in a deep-fat fryer. Lovely.

Mean Girls

Makeovers, hazing, and neck braces: there are several obligatory references to cultural touchstone Mean Girls (2004), including matching pink outfits and vengeful collages

The Powerpuff Girls

What happens when you mix sugar, spice, and all things nice with a mysterious and explosive chemical? Either the Powerpuff Girls, or the Chanels.

Now hear Anna discussing Scream Queens on the New Statesman’s pop culture podcast, SRSLY.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.