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12 October 2016

Why I still love The Apprentice

And you should too.

By Anoosh Chakelian

It’s Series 12 of The Apprentice. Twelve! That’s how many disciples Jesus had! And even that was one too many.

Every autumn a new series of His Sugary Lordship Siralun’s glass-and-steel obstacle course reliably rolls around. And every year, you get the usual naysayers.

It’s crap.

They never change the format.

All the contestants are awful.

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Uh, what’s it got to do with business anyway?

Alan Sugar isn’t even a successful entrepreneur.

It’s all set up.

Did you know it’s not really filmed in Canary Wharf?

To all you sneering Apprentice sceptics who have ever said any of the above – I’ve looked closely at your resyoomays, and I can conclude, YER FIRED.

The Apprentice is and always will be amazing. Precisely because it is exactly the same, every single year.

Anyone with a respect for tradition, and a basic human yearning for comfort, should agree with me.

I just feel so cosy and reassured every time a new series airs – the Prokofiev kicks in, a helicopter flies over the Docklands, encircles the City, lands somewhere beside a hangar in West Acton, aaaaaand the introductory montage is in full swing. Clips of Alan Sugar pointing at mystery nonentities. Male candidate compares himself to predatory beast. Female candidate staggers in heels around market place. Cursory reference to the financial crash. Mangled metaphor. Cockney-infused insult. Karren Brady purses lips in wry half-smile. Claude Littner resembles a lost egg. Lord Sugar’s hunt for his next business partner BEGINS.

It’s like arriving home for Christmas, playing the same parlour games with the same reluctant fondness, eating the same roast with the same disappointing trimmings, and participating in the same awkward political rows, for the twelfth year in a row. It may not be exciting anymore. It may even sometimes feel actively uncomfortable. You may be pledging repeatedly to yourself that, next year, you’ll definitely do something with your friends instead. Like you decided the year before.

But it’s safe. It’s predictable. And it kind of has to be done. So we make the best of it.

This year’s show is no different. Already both teams have been barking abstract nouns at each other until they come up with a bizarre team name that sounds more like an amateur pornstar moniker, or an energy drink you get in one of those weird off-grid supermarkets (this year, it’s “Titans” versus “Nebula”). We’ve had the obligatory aggressive platitudes (“I’m the business equivalent of a diamond, I can sparkle and light up the room. But if you’re not careful, I could cut you.” Etc.) The University of Life gets its yearly open day (“I’m a street market boy”). An air of oddly poetic menace is established (“You’re floating at the moment, as dead wood does.”) One team sells a bunch of tat too cheaply and is accused of a “pricing strategy” failure. And something, or somebody, somewhere, is “laid on”. (In week one, it was “experts”. I know. In Brexit Britain, as well.)

OK, it’s hammy, it’s exploitative and ultimately it’s pointless. The candidates, unless they are a raging bigot destined for stardom like Katie Hopkins, don’t really go on to rake in the cash. But it brings us the gift of familiarity. And it teaches the British public two crucial lessons: how to be passive-aggressive, and why you shouldn’t try to get around London in a black cab if you’re in a rush.

Without these, we are nothing.

Perhaps, patient reader, we are all Lord Sugar’s next business partner.

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