Seconds into the opening titles and I’m already cringing about the future for the British economy. Where do they find these self-styled “business leaders of the future”? The great book of business cliches?
“I’m a fighter”, “I’ve got a mouthy personality”, “I take no prisoners”, “I love money more than anything”, “winner takes all” etc etc. Yawn, they were just one more stereotype away from “Lunch is for wimps” or, I don’t know, “You’re fired!”. No, wait.
I tuned into the first ever series intrigued to find yet another reality tv show (for this is what it essentially is folks, no matter how you style it) but one that was going to reward skill, effort, creativity and business acumen. You didn’t even have to like the participants. Excellent, could be interesting.
Sadly, no. My interest waned as the show became more about re-working Alan Sugar’s damaged public profile post-Tottenham Hotspur and less about engaging the young fertile minds of Britain’s new business world order.
I’ve skipped it since but I came back to it last night, encouraged by the promise of a more realistic, sober, credit-crunch conscious approach. Once the posturing was finally over, it looked promising. “Get out there and clean things” boomed Sir Alan or “SrAln” as the apprentices seemed to call him. That’s more like it, get out there with some raw materials,a bit of charm and turn some hard graft into hard cash.
Unfortunately, that hard graft seemed conveninently glossed over. Now, I’m sure watching cold-calling sales patter is about as exciting as watching 10 strangers in a house arguing but it seemed rather too easy for both teams, despite the in-fighting to secure major potential contracts right off the bat.
In the twinkling of SrAln’s eye, the boys had tracked down one of London’s biggest mini-cab firms and the girls had got hold of a luxury car dealership. Naturally, both businesses were happy to drop everything to have them pop over to negotiate terms as they happened to need their entire fleets cleaning.
I can imagine the conversation amongst the directors…”Sorry? BBC prime time wants to come over to our lot and film a load of oiks cleaning our cars? For free? When? Sure, where do we sign? Make sure you’ve all had your hair cut and you’re dressed smartly guys – ooooh, who’s gonna play bad cop and who will be good cop? Our usual suppliers who we pay a retainer too? Oh, we’ll be ok, who needs to watch their costs? We’ll just absorb it.”
So it was clearly all a set up. The BBC’s done the ground work, setting up potential gold mines for the teams to exploit and yes, I realise that is what is required to make the programme instantly compelling rather than seeing the teams pound the shoe leather and the phones searching for clients. However, that hard graft done for them, the tasks decended into a popularity and shouting competition.
Who would emerge as top dog, or perhaps more fittingly, top bitch? Both the boys and the girls spent more time running eachother down, questioning leadership and style over outlining the business plan. As a result, lots of mess, a few tears (ok, I imagined that but they’ll be there next episode) and a spot of personality clashes.
Is that business? Maybe. Is it reality? No. Is it reality TV? Yes. It did give nod to these more challenging economic times until the teams retired after a hard day to their luxury penthouse apartment complete with cocktail team and the real fun and fighting could begin. How long before we’re asked by Radio 1 who we think fancies who or which apprentice is the hottest? Important questions I’m sure.
Anyway, I’m off to find a bucket, a sponge and Nottingham’s biggest cab firm. By my calculations I can make £200 profit by 7pm. Thanks SrAln.