Warning: Spoilers follow!
So after twelve gruelling weeks of fat daddies and flat skeletons, Lord Sugar has found his tenth Apprentice, or rather, business partner – Mark Wright. Yes, the cocksure Aussie pipped Bianca Miller to the post to secure a £250,000 investment for his business ‘Climb Online’ (NOT ‘Clim Bonline’, as one past candidate would have you believe). It was a close and perfectly satisfying finale, albeit slightly anti-climatic, which perhaps is reflective of Series 10 as a whole.
The Apprentice 2014 started off strong. The first couple of episodes spoiled us with an increased roster of candidates, the looming threat of multiple firings per week (not an idle one, as we had learnt by Week 2) and some genuinely innovative twists on the usual tasks. Yet, following the inevitable triple firing of Week 4, the programme fell into old routine.
It didn’t help that by this point a lot of the quirkier personalities, such as fashionista Robert and fiery Canadian Steven, had already been given the finger. Whilst they certainly gave the first third of the series an air of unpredictability, they swiftly left the show with a bunch of contestants that were neither particularly likeable, or (God forbid) unlikeable. You know something has gone amiss in your reality TV programme when a mild-mannered lawyer, who speaks in the third-person, is fan favourite to win.
This sort of Bake Off beigeness further extended beyond the candidates and leaked into the weekly challenges. This has been something that has troubled The Apprentice considerably in recent years, especially since the format change in 2011. For all their lack of personality, there’s no denying that this year’s candidates were, by-and-large, credible business people with exciting proposals for Lord Sugar to invest in. So why on earth in Week 10, the antepenultimate week, were the candidates being shipped to the Tate, to be then told they had to go off and design puddings?!
Sure, back when the prize was a job with Lord Sugar, this sort of thing would have made a degree of sense. In his weird Sugary way, it could be argued he was testing the candidates’ versatility and character by having them do a whole bunch of menial tasks. But now, the justification is tenuous, if not ludicrous. No wonder it takes Lord Sugar twelve weeks of television to decide on a business to invest his money into, whereas it takes the Dragons of Dragons’ Den mere minutes.
There’s no doubt that now a decade into The Apprentice, cracks are beginning to show. Partly from age, partly from some ill-conceived attempts to shake up the formula. But regardless of this nitpicking, at the end of the day, or weeks, The Apprentice is still able to coast by thanks to a solid gold premise.
We may have seen it a hundred times before, but there is always something appealing about watching a bunch of young hotshots squabbling in the boardroom, as an old man cracks terrible puns in a cockney accent. So what if Mark’s business fails to set the world of online climbing alight and he becomes just another Stella English (yes I did just Google ‘past Apprentice winners’)?
Providing there are badly directed commercials, frightening interview processes and team leaders who don’t listen to the market research, we will probably be sticking around for another ten years.