So take this with a pinch of salt, because I’ve got far too much affection for this show to be considered objective by any means, but I reckon The Apprentice still has life in it. The incompetence of contestants as they strive to please their overlord is as wonderful as it has ever been. Perhaps the producers are making their prioritising of good TV over good contestants slightly too obvious these days, but a show losing subtlety over time isn’t really a cause for cancellation.
The increasingly desperate attempts of these people to stand on each other’s toes, to make
Lord Sugar see his young self in them, again, is nothing new, yet as each argument is always tailored to each task, it escapes being repetitive in the way that the judges’ comments on The X Factor are.
Ten series on, the market that The Apprentice candidates are selling in has changed hugely, and the show, to its credit, is at least trying to change with it. In the episodes broadcast this season alone, we’ve been treated to two technology based tasks. I mean, it’s not normal technology that humans would actually use (or “wear in public” for that matter) but at least it’s an attempt to remain relevant.
The downside of these tasks does lie in their complexity; the contestants themselves often seem flummoxed by what their objective actually is, let alone those of us at home. This is problematic in so far as The Apprentice relies on viewers at home scoffing at the mistakes of those in the competition, believing that they themselves would have performed significantly better (which is probably true). If the audience doesn’t quite understand the task, it removes their innate superiority. Furthermore, it robs the episodes of the coherency that is present in tasks with the simple aim of manufacturing a product, then selling it to consumers. Really though, this matters less than one would expect. The sheer lunacy of the candidates and their plans for success is enough to carry the less clear episodes, with last week’s being a prime example.
Creating their own YouTube channel is a pretty demanding task to give to a bunch of people with irrelevant knowledge. Particularly since they all assumed it meant that they had to make comedy. This alone did make the episode something of a classic, but the final reveal that Lord Sugar was simply going to kick them all out really, really worked. Sure these people were fun to watch, but they were also the last people Lord Sugar would ever go into business with, and removing them from the competition also eliminated a feeling of aimlessness that the extra candidates had created.
The problem with The Apprentice’s attempt to break from format by introducing a surprise increase in number of contestants is that now, in the fourth week of the show, there are still candidates that haven’t had more than a minute of screen time.
This won’t matter though. In three weeks’ time we’ll be down to the normal number, in the know about the different characters and waiting for the next big shock. The Apprentice might be old but it’s not broken, and therefore doesn’t really need fixing.