The Apprentice has been a BBC staple for over 15 years, with a total of 246 budding entrepreneurs having entered Lord Alan Sugar’s ballroom since 2005.
While the classic reality series won’t be airing its 16th series anytime soon due to the ongoing pandemic, BBC One is treating us to a nostalgic look back at the show’s best bits – from showcasing the various celebs who first made a name on The Apprentice, to remembering some of the funniest, oddest and most cringeworthy pitches to be judged by Lord Sugar.
Tonight’s episode look at the show’s most memorable characters, from the controversial Katie Hopkins and Del Boy-figure James Hill, to cocky Vincent Disneur and formidable competitor Ruth Badger.
Ahead of tonight’s programme, here’s 11 of the most iconic moments in The Apprentice history, from side-splitting pitches to wince-worthy boardroom clashes.
1. Solomon gets roasted by Claude Littner in his ‘final five’ interview
Arguably one of the most memorable moments The Apprentice has gifted its viewers in recent years, Solomon Akhtar’s ‘final five’ interview with Alan Sugar’s aide Claude Littner from series 10 is an absolute rollercoaster of glowing praise and savage scolding.
The clip begins with Littner telling Akhtar that his CV “filled [him] with pleasure”, lulling the contestant into a false sense of security with his multiple green ticks and encouraging remarks. However, the mood abruptly changes when Littner turns his attention to Akhtar’s logo-filled proposal – which he calls “a bloody disgrace” and kicks him out of the meeting. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t make it to the next round.
2. Sumo suits Ultimate Team-Building
The Apprentice was never short of ridiculous moments – case in point, Leah Totton’s strange team-building day in series nine, which saw two of her teammates fight one another in sumo suits to teach a group of office workers about business conflict. The bewildered audience can hardly contain their laughter as eventual series winner Leah, who’s dressed in what looks like a Peter Pan costume, stands awkwardly in front of the staged scuffle.
3. Simon’s ill-placed trampoline leg
Internet entrepreneur Simon Ambrose may have eventually won The Apprentice’s third series, but he didn’t emerge victorious without enduring his fair share of embarrassment.
In one of the funniest moments the BBC series has ever seen, poor Simon is presenting for his team in a shopping channel challenge and decides to test out a £69.99 miniature trampoline, before demonstrating how easy it is to assemble by twisting its legs into place whilst holding the bouncer in a somewhat suggestive position. “What are you bloody doing!” exclaims a bemused Alan Sugar, who’s watching from another room. I don’t think any of us truly want to know…
4. Jason Leech escapes to the shopfront
Series nine contestant Jason Leech and his eccentric sales techniques didn’t impress his fellow teammates, who kept the historian/property entrepreneur in the back of the shop during a challenge which required them to sell produce.
However, much to his teammates’ dismay, Leech continued to advance towards wary customers in the street, telling them to buy a “sad pack of potatoes” to “make them happy”. Despite his odd approach to customer interaction, Leech made it all the way to the ninth task in the series.
Series five of The Apprentice truly gave us the song of a generation with Philip Taylor’s Pantsman – the estate agent’s superhero mascot for cereal. This angel-voiced contestant only needed one take to record the jingle for his group’s advert, however it didn’t leave a (positive) lasting impression with Lord Sugar, who fired Phil two weeks later.
6. Susan knows nothing about France
During series seven, Karren Brady wasn’t very impressed with Susan Ma’s stream of questions about French people. “Are the French eco-friendly?, “Do the French go camping?”, “Are the French very fond of their children?”, “Do a lot of people drive in France?” While it sounded as though she was reeling off her Google search history prior to jumping on the Eurostar, the skincare entrepreneur was actually trying to get to grips with her market audience, adding: “I honestly know nothing about the French and their culture.”
7. ‘Best seller’ Scott makes a meal of a sales pitch
Series 11’s Scott Sanders and Brett Butler-Smythe seemed as though they were on their way to smash their first apartment pitch at Printworks in Clapham, describing themselves as “two of the best sellers” on the show. However, viewers quickly became aware that Scott had somewhat oversold his haggling abilities. In a scene that could have been taken straight from scripted sitcom Stath Lets Flats, Scott showed a potential buyer around the showroom, failing to differentiate between the washing machine and fridge freezer, before forgetting when the flats are due to be built.
8. Rachel Grove’s bizarre pitch dance
Some of the funniest moments from The Apprentice came from its very first series, such as Rachel Grove’s groovy sales pitch, which former aide Nick Hewer described as “one of the most horrible experience [he’s] ever had to endure”.
The moment saw charity fundraiser Groves try to excite her audience by dancing around the room, kicking off her shoes and fling her skirt about in one of the most cringeworthy scenes in Apprentice history. Somehow, she made it all the way to Week 6 before Lord Sugar showed her the door.
9. Katie Hopkins’ dramatic exit
It’s easy to forget that controversial media personality Katie Hopkins got her start on The Apprentice in 2006, but what’s unforgettable is her sudden exit during the show’s semi-final. After Alan Sugar questioned her commitment following her unenthusiastic response to make it to the final three, the former Met Office employee decided to “stand down” and left the boardroom voluntarily.
10. The wolf jacket
This classic clip from The Apprentice’s very first series saw Saira Khan and James Max sort through items they were tasked with selling on a TV shopping channel, however it was one particular jumper that caught their attention – a unisex fleece with two wolves pictured on the front. The jumper left James Max howling with unstoppable laughter before trying it on for himself.
11. Solomon’s obsession with Stevie the skeleton
Series 10’s Solomon makes our list once again, with his handsy approach to Stevie the skeleton, a £260 model skeleton which Soloman attempted to haggle over. While his teammate Bianca Miller wasn’t too impressed with his long, chatty negotiation, he did take home the bag of bones for a slightly discounted price and bought himself a new best friend.
The Apprentice: Best Bits airs tonight at 9pm on BBC One. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.