Big Brother meets the boardroom? TV Critic Charlie Murray praises the most recent series of The Apprentice for remaining relevant in our age of reality TV

Images by BBC Apprentice

This series of The Apprentice, which commenced on 2nd October, has a new edge combined with much of the old appeals from previous seasons.  

Firstly, the show seems distinctly more ‘reality TV-ish’, rather than the serious business show we often describe it as to explain why it is definitely, 100% not, trash television. In the run-up to this series, articles describing the “hot baker” and ex-models that would form this year’s lineup of contestants, were released. Perhaps that was just other publications focussing on the wrong attributes, but after watching the first episode, you will soon see the reality show-esque stereotypes being formed.

You will soon see the reality show-esque stereotypes being formed

We have Ryan-Mark, the posh, but hilarious, teenager; Thomas is a Danny Dyer-esque character whose unabashedly outspoken personality will be one to watch out for; and Lottie, the self-titled wine connoisseur (cue an editing highlight of the show’s premier: a dramatic zoom on her face as she shames Lubna for not seeing the “luxury” aspect of wine-tasting). 

Speaking of Lottie, this series has already faced discussions of racism behind the scenes, with The Apprentice bosses investigating apparent racial verbal abuse directed at Lubna from Lottie. Not to delve too deeply into what is not related to the actual formula of the show, but it is telling about this years’ batch of candidates that something this dramatic has started to unravel so soon into the series’ airing. 

However, these little tidbits and changes do not change the heart of the show, which has helped it remain relevant in its fifteenth series. No matter which candidates grate on audiences, the fundamental formula that the public has grown to be attached to, and more importantly, are used to, remains.  

The fundamental formula that the public has grown to be attached to remains

The show is perfect for laughing at people failing miserably at simple tasks, and the show allows many opportunities for that. ‘Week 1: South Africa’ already had the gem of the boys’ many mishaps on their tourism task, during which they took tourists on a safari tour. This resulted in such gloriously cringe-inducing moments as the sales team’s awkward silence after the other sub-team tried to make sure they hadn’t promised any customers they’d see the ‘Big 5’ safari animals – after the sales team had just done exactly that. 

The aspects of the show are predictable such as when we see the routine introductions the contestants do for each other in the cars after first meeting, when they feign niceness to each other despite obvious tensions. For instance, Ryan-Mark’s drawl of ‘that’s so interesting’ to Thomas’ introduction as a pillow seller comes to mind. We are taken through the aforementioned mishaps that occur repeatedly throughout car crashes of tasks, and return to the same iconic boardroom followed by the fabled ‘Loser’s Café’ before seeing a firing that we either agree with or get angry about (but either way forget about by the time the series is over). 

It is a testament to the show’s editing and formula that cramming these new and controversial personalities into the same format that was first produced fifteen years ago, is still watchable and discussed every year when it returns to screens. Therefore, even with tasks that have been recycled, such as tourist excursions and toys, the show gets an extra point for longevity, helped by its calming familiarity to the viewer. Even a refreshing start by flying the candidates to South Africa for their very first task did not distract from the heart of the show, which sets it up to be a consistent series.

Rating: 4/5