The Apprentice works because it skips X Factor-style gimmicks says Lord Sugar

The business guru admits that throwing in a new tweak or two to the format “amuses” him, but says consistency - plus varied candidates - is what makes the show popular

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Lord Sugar says the reason The Apprentice continues to be so popular is its consistency. 

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Comparing the BBC series to ITV’s The X Factor, which is currently struggling to match previous years’ ratings, Sugar said the business show skips the “gimmicks”. 

“I tell you what it is, it’s very very simple, the BBC and the production company and myself are not interested in gimmicks and trying to change things: it’s not broke, don’t try and fix it,” he said at today’s series 11 launch. 

“It’s the consistency of keeping things the same, with slight tweaks.”

This year those tweaks include – for the first time – mixing up the candidates for the opening challenge so that it’s not just women against men (a headache for the production team, Sugar admitted, as the split helps viewers get to know the characters). But you need a few twists, he explained, to keep the candidates on their toes, ading that a curve ball here and there also “amuses” him.

“In my opinion – and I say this respectively to X Factor – gimmicks don’t seem to work. In fact, in my opinion also, it was the demise of what they call the civilian version of The Apprentice in the United States. They started doing all silly things and in the end the audience saw through it.”

Last year’s series, which was won by Mark Wright and his Climb Online business, launched with an impressive 8.22 million viewers and for the most part ratings stood firmly above the 7 million mark. 

Along with keeping the format relatively unchanged, Lord Sugar said it’s the influx of new and unknown candidates that gives the show its edge. 

“What’s good about The Apprentice and why we keep the ratings is very simple: I’m the same – getting a bit older I suppose, looking back 11 years ago – but what’s not the same is the candidates. It is those candidates which is the compelling viewing. It’s the different candidates and the uncertainty of what they’re going to say and do that makes it the great programme that it is.”

Indeed, new aide Claude Littner concurred, saying that while watching the screening his heart was still pumping despite the fact that he knew exactly what was going to happen. 

There’s certainly the usual batch of over-eager waffle. One candidate is pretty sure he’ll end up richer than Lord Sugar. Meanwhile, another lad floated the idea of their team being called the Sugar Babes… 

Asked if Lord Sugar had any advice for Simon Cowell, the boss of the boardroom laughed: 

“He wouldn’t listen to me,” before adding with a chuckle: “Shave the beard off for a start.” 

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The Apprentice returns with a double bill Wednesday (14th) and Thursday (15th) at 9pm on BBC1