The Apprentice, review: think the BBC doesn't do hit comedy anymore? Look no further

Why are the female contestants always dressed like an assortment of Skittles?
Why are the female contestants always dressed like an assortment of Skittles? - BBC
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“It’s not a game,” Lord Sugar tells the candidates in The Apprentice (BBC One), because he’s now into his 18th series of insisting that this is a business programme. Oh, Alan. Would a real business programme insist that the women dress like an assortment of Skittles? Or consider giving £250,000 to a man in a black silk shirt who says: “I am going to change the world and create a legacy that reverberates through time?”

If this were a business programme, it would get a zero-star rating. As a comedy, though, it is very funny. That’s partly down to the casting – thousands apply, and the programme-makers work really hard to select the most stupidly un-self-aware – but mostly to the editing, which highlights the stupidity. Example: the scene in which the womens’ team noticed that the “breadcrumbs” on their fish cakes tasted weird, and the camera cut to another part of the kitchen where someone was asking why the crumble mix for their rhubarb dessert had mysteriously disappeared.

The cooking part of the task is what separates the men from the boys. Ollie, a sales executive, encountered a tablespoon for the first time. Things were no better in the womens’ kitchen, where they were perplexed by an oven with a maximum cooking time of two minutes. Reader, it was a microwave.

The competition in this episode involved a corporate away day in the Highlands. Tim Campbell had taken inspiration from The Traitors’ Claudia Winkleman, wearing a tartan jacket (I was sidetracked for a while here by the number of men in The Apprentice who think that pocket squares are an important part of business attire).

Corporate away days are, by their very nature, a festival of David Brent-ian embarrassment and nobody has ever enjoyed themselves whilst on one, so this probably wasn’t much worse than usual.

A corprate away day in the Highlands didn't go well for the boys' team
A corprate away day in the Highlands didn't go well for the boys' team - BBC

Virdi, the men’s team leader, seemed to think that his experience as an “international DJ” would come in handy on a bushcraft and abseiling tour, and interrupted proceedings to lead his group through some bhangra. “We’re going to sell this tour with our personalities,” he said, fatally. His team made a loss, yet Lord Sugar didn’t fire him.

And then there’s Asif, a former doctor turned “wellness” entrepreneur who boasts about his IQ. He was recently exposed for dodgy social media posts, including a rant about the “Zionist antichrist”. The flaw in The Apprentice model is that if you select a candidate because they are a gobby, arrogant plum, on the basis that those traits will make good TV, then it may come back to bite you.

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