It follows the same format as the main show and occupies a similar slot in the schedules. It has Nick Hewer, the rich man’s Wilfrid Brambell, and Karren Brady, the poor man’s Barbarella. It features shots of gleaming glass buildings, a quirky classical soundtrack and, like its parent series, probably accounts for about a quarter of the BBC’s taxicab expenses. So why has Young Apprentice been watched by only half as many people?
It’s the candidates. For a start, a lot of them are actually good. Which means they make fewer mistakes and are harder to laugh at. And they’re in the early stages of their careers, so many of them haven’t yet made the connection between running a business and believing themselves to be demi-gods. Some of them even listen to each other’s ideas and try to work as a team. So anyone wishing to point and laugh and get ridiculous catchphrases trending on Twitter has to work a lot harder than usual.
Furthermore, they’re young – around 16 years old. Even if they do make mistakes, or ridiculous claims about themselves, it doesn’t seem quite right to lay into people who have just finished their GCSEs.
It’s clear Lord Sugar is struggling, too. He was firing candidates “with regret” from the very start of the series, when everyone knows “with regret” is reserved for the final five.
And after each firing, he does a little speech about how youngsters like these are the future of business. He’s even tried smiling a couple of times, which looks as natural for him as it does for Gordon Brown. You can’t help feeling he won’t be back in his comfort zone until the main series returns and he’s given some proper boardroom fodder to rip into (some of whom may be just a couple of years older than this lot, by the way).
Meanwhile, anyone who was enjoying the show as a business competition between a number of capable candidates can pretty much forget it since last week’s sudden gimmicky format change, which saw the whole of the losing team fired, along with one member of the winners, robbing us of two of the three best candidates.
Then again, they’ve got their whole lives ahead of them and have already made successes of themselves. Actually, I think that’s probably Young Apprentice’s worst crime – making me feel inadequate. That’s why one of us needs to grow up.