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Reality TV Blog

'The Apprentice': Is it time for Lord Sugar to be fired?

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There used to be a time when The Apprentice was on that I used to spend my Wednesdays sat in the Digital Spy offices in silence. As much as a muttering, a smile or a snigger would apparently "spoil" the evening's entertainment. Use of the words "he" or "she" during phone interviews with the fired candidates before the show went out was frowned upon and I was forced to type up interviews and news in codes so that it didn't ruin the result for our subbing team.

But in recent years that buzz around Lord Sugar's Apprentice has drifted and this year's show has barely caused a stir even when I've accidentally blurted out the name of the fired candidate.

The Apprentice - Karren Brady, Lord Sugar, Nick Hewer

© BBC / Talkback Thames



This series of The Apprentice has felt at times like watching a footballer during the final season of his career. The show looks the same, it's still doing all the right things, but the old magic has gone. Occasionally there are glimpses of what made it great in the past, but they are all too fleeting.

Don't get us wrong, we'll still always tune in every Wednesday. We wouldn't want to miss a growled one-liner from Shugs or a single wince from Hewer, but when it comes to clowns in suits hurtling around London's city centres flogging "old tut", screaming down mobile phones like they've never used one before and making blunder after blunder during the same old tasks, we can't help but get a strong sense of deja-vu.

The Apprentice formula is brilliant. It is produced by TV geniuses. It's smart, witty and sharply produced. And between series two and series four, you won't find a more funny or brilliant reality TV show no matter how hard you look.

But it is the same format, the same follies and the same grizzled Sugar that we've been seeing for the last eight series now (and two Young spinoffs). Twists in the prize, twists in the tasks and the replacement of Margaret Mountford with Karren Brady have done nothing to stop the slide into what is close to becoming self-parody.

Biggest Apprentice buffoons: Stuart Baggs

© WENN / BBC

Biggest Apprentice buffoons: Michael Sophocles

© WENN / BBC



The change of format from a job with Sugar to a £250,000 investment appeared to signpost a change in the show's tone, switching from a jokey mood to a more serious credit-crunch solving tact. This hasn't been to the show's benefit because when The Apprentice goes serious, it goes dull.

Maybe, the 'big characters' have just run dry, maybe the next Stuart Baggs or Michael Sophocles are too busy making a ham-fist of our economy, but for whatever reason the big buffoons of yesteryear appear to have dried up.

The latest crop look the part - a wrestler who quotes lines like "witness the fitness", a boggle-eyed, over-enthusiastic David Brent-type in a shiny suit, a woman calling herself the Blonde Assassin - but in reality they've lacked the killer bite of a Jenny C, Katie Hopkins or Tre and the surreal lack of awareness of a Lucinda or a Raef.

The Apprentice - The Boys - Stephen Brady

© BBC / Talkback Thames

The Apprentice S08E09: Adam Corbally

© BBC / Talkback Thames



People often suggest that The Apprentice is let-down by its lack of proper business people. That's rubbish. If we wanted to watch proper business people, we'd all enjoy those three-hour long meetings with PowerPoint presentations and stat-heavy facts about our company's annual turnover. But we don't.

We'd much rather be giggling at a cat falling off a radiator on YouTube. Or guffawing at an idiot in a suit being bludgeoned by Sugar in the boardroom after spending seven hours trying to figure out what a cloche is.

We never imagined we'd look back at Stuart Baggs's field of ponies fondly, long for the days of Pants Man, or pine for a glimpse of Syed jabbering in the boardroom. But we do. This year's rabble - Stephen Brady, Adam Corbally and Ricky Martin - are too knowing, too sensible and too TV savvy. In the words of the great Nick Hewer, they are all ding and no dong.

So is it time Lord Sugar was given the chop and fired from the Beeb? The ratings for the show are still not to be sniffed at, especially when it has to go up against football on Sky and ITV regularly and the media is too busy writing about The Voice and Simon Cowell's dancing dogs to notice who is grumbling at who in the boardroom.

Peter Jones from Dragon's Den

© BBC

Richard Branson

© Rex Features



Could the show be revived with another head honcho in the place of Shugs? Personally, I'd rather the show was put to bed quietly so we could remember its golden era without it being tainted by further spinoffs or reboots. The prospect of Peter Jones's Apprentice or Richard Branson's Apprentice just sounds odd and in the case of Jones - awful.

A great businessman should know when they've had their day and when to move onto something else. Hopefully, Sugar will remember those classic words from Margaret Mountford in the boardroom on Edinburgh University and realise that his once great TV show "ain't what it used to be".

What do you think of this year's Apprentice? Do you think the show should be shelved? Is it time to replace Lord Sugar? Share your verdict below!

The Apprentice's biggest ever buffoons - Photo gallery

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