“This is not about a job any more and I’m not looking for a friend. If I wanted a friend I’d get a dog. I’m looking for a partner, the Marks to my Spencer, the Lennon to my McCartney…”
That’s right, folks, TV’s favourite straight-talking peer is back, the candidates have been told what’s expected of them, The Apprentice series eight is almost upon us.
For those worried that the show might begin to suffer from fatigue after the best part of a decade on our screens, fear not. If episode one of the new series is anything to go by, we’re all in for another business-tainment treat of the highest order.
As is customary, the programme begins with bravado and hyperbole: “I can be like an animal, I’ll roar my way to the top”, “I’m a master puppeteer”, “I’m the blonde assassin” and my personal favourite, “I’m the reflection of perfection”. Indeed, this year’s crop appears to be ready to talk crap for Britain and, as always, Lord Sugar insists he’ll be taking no prisoners.
“You’re lucky I’m not on your side of the table, cos I’d win!” barks the Lord across his boardroom in his opening exchange with the hopefuls.
“Don’t try and hide. We’re not playing Where’s Wally here. I’m not looking for Lord Lucan.”
Cue shots of 16 people staring toward the ground. There’s just enough time for the lord to make a remark about one candidate’s excessive perspiration – but then the teams must hit the road.
Back at the all-new Apprentice house (which has a swimming pool and never-ending spiral staircase), the teams (boys v girls) sit in what looks like a children’s nursery to decide on team names and leaders. You’ll be pleased to know that the girls’ team name is so good that one of the candidates “dreamt it the night before”.
And so to the task – a nice simple start for the teams, printing and selling. Each group has to buy blank T-shirts, teddy bears, mugs, hats (whatever they like, really), put some sort of logo on it, and then sell them at a profit. How can something so simple go wrong? Easily. Just involve a group of argumentative egomaniacs.
Cracks begin to show early in the boys’ team as several of its number begin jostling to take charge, despite refusing to raise their head above the parapet when project management was being decided. The price of teddy bears causes an ongoing spat – but as the task goes on, it’s not so much pricing but the quality of the products that the men need to be concerned with.
Meanwhile, the girls embrace the creative elements, but after developing a rather unhelpful tactic of all talking at the same time (sometimes rather aggressively to potential clients), they begin to realise that you need more than just a smart product to make money in business.
There are a number of excellent characters already developing by the end of episode one. Watch out for Ricky Hatton/Wayne Rooney lookalike Ricky Martin: “By day I’m a recruitment superstar – by night I’m also a professional wrestler.” Opinionated Jane McEvoy, talkative (perhaps too talkative) architect Gabrielle Omar and One Direction-groomed Nick Holzherr are also good value.
Of course someone has to get fired – and of course I’m not going to tell you who it is.
However, what I will say is that although Lord Sugar admitted during the post-screening press conference that he’d mellowed a little in his old age, he still knows how to fire a candidate with style.
Eight years and 96 boardroom sessions later, he still keeps you guessing to the very end before aiming the pointy finger of doom at his victim.
Wednesday evenings are yours again, Lord Sugar. We know you won’t let us down.
The Apprentice starts next Wednesday at 9pm on BBC1/BBC1 HD