The Diary of a British TV Virgin: The Apprentice and Voice UK have old-school style

Jessica Schuster travelled thousands of miles to experience the best of British - where else to start than by switching on the telly?

The TV in my new flat wouldn’t work. When I got off a plane to London two weeks ago, all I wanted to do was watch TV and fall asleep. This was my first time on European soil and jet lag was setting in. I pressed the red button on the remote, but the screen remained black…no signal. So, I looked to the iPlayer for help.


The Apprentice popped up. Visions of the Trumps danced through my head – Donald and his children Ivanka, Donald Jr and Eric. I clicked play… only to have someone named Lord Sugar grace the screen. What would this show be like without the entire Trump family? How can a business show be any good without a proper combover?

The opening music threw me off a bit. It seemed like I was about to watch a Harry Potter film; it felt old-fashioned, just like the city streets I recently had to lug my suitcases across. Then the contestants appeared, with less personality than those on the American version, which is filled with people who are more outspoken than Simon Cowell and who kick and scream until they get their way. I couldn’t picture Nick Holzherr or Jade Nash being so dramatic.

But the British sarcasm and humour, thanks to the comments from Lord Sugar’s aide Nick Hewer, was hilarious. In the American version, Hewer’s place would be taken by one of Trump’s children -representing the suits of America, instead of having a trademark attitude like their father. Maybe it’s because they aren’t as rich as he is yet.

Hewer’s wit made me take a liking to older British men. His remarks made me think that, thanks to Tom Jones, The Voice UK might be slightly less irritating than I thought on first impressions – Jessie J’s endless perkiness. Young stars probably increase the number of young viewers, but there’s a difference between advice given by people who have a plethora of life experience and those who don’t. On the American version of The Voice, the judges are all under 40 years old and have an all-about-me attitude. No well thought-out, constructive criticism. There’s no wise old man, like Tom Jones, to give them a reality check.

Jessie J might irk me, but she’s less annoying than Voice USA judge Christina Aguilera, whose party-girl personality is comparable to Lindsey Lohan’s. Each have absurd fashion statements to place more attention on them: Jessie J with her zig-zag hair part from the 90s that should never come back, Xtina with her sparkly UFO hat that won’t go away.

The Voice UK is better at letting contestants develop their own styles, too. The US wannabes are all little clay moulds who do little that’s groundbreaking. They turn rap songs into country-sounding songs or vice versa. The contestants on the UK version aren’t as dull. Vince Kidd recently performed a reggae version of My Love is Your Love by Whitney Houston with a hippie-rocker swagger I’ve never seen before; finally, something original from a singing show.


It’s a shame that The Apprentice requires such formal business attire. I wonder what Lord Sugar or Donald Trump would wear to express themselves…maybe solid gold ties? Perhaps I’ll add a bit of British flair to my own look while I’m here. Maybe a blunt haircut inspired by Jessie J is on the cards. If I could only get my TV working to see more British fashion…