Lord Alan’s illegitimate children

As has become increasingly apparent over the last few series of The Apprentice, the show’s major appeal is the ability to attract humanity’s worst representatives as contestants. If only it had been airing in the 1930s, it could well have been the most effective peace projects ever, as Europe’s entire contingent of fascists assembled to bicker about synergy in the hopes of impressing some gruff business icon, (say, JD Rockefeller), instead of developing inadvertently hilarious marching styles and invading the Sudetenland.

However, given the rapid boom in levels of conniving egomania, there must be tremendous pressure on the producers to recruit bigger and bigger bastards each year, constantly fearing that, at some point, the bubble would burst and the show would have to start featuring recognisable human beings. Luckily, in response to this dilemma, some ingenious spark at TV centre has hit upon a rather novel solution: if people who want to appear on The Apprentice are utter pricks, then surely the only possible worse group in society are people who want to the appear on The Apprentice while they’re teenagers. Thus is born Junior Apprentice, a kind of perfect storm of obnoxiousness, combining the grindingly banal narcissism of the adult candidates with all the inherent selfishness of young people.

Last week’s episode got off to a raring start in this respect, as the introductory speeches (in which the participants generally establish their credentials as ruthless corporate sociopaths) somehow grated even more as, instead of boasting about their massive sales figures or how many underlings they’ve sacked, the tycoons-in-training proudly listed such puny achievements as their GCSE results and success rate at board-games. Well, clearly, only someone with a killer instinct for business and two gold stars for spelling can match up to the exacting standards of the newly upgraded Lord Sugar (Sr’Alan 2.0, unfortunately a little more forgiving in his latest incarnation).

On the evidence of these meagre qualifications, it’s not hugely shocking that “Britain’s brightest and youngest business minds” end up seeming more out of their depth than Fearne Cotton presenting a harrowing documentary about the 2004 Tsunami. To undermine the show’s premise even further, Jordan, supposedly the most successful participant, was the first to be pointed into oblivion last week, purportedly for mismanaging his team-mates but really for being so unbearably smug that he completely overshot the bastard curve (although presumably, he’ll look relatively self-effacing in comparison to next year’s lot). His whimpering departure from the boardroom was a grimly joyous payoff, one worthy of all the effort the Germans went to inventing schadenfreude and thus disguising good, old-fashioned jeering as a legitimate psychological phenomenon.

While Jordan was certainly the most objectionable, the remaining cohort are equally incompetent, so this kind of weekly humiliation looks set to continue. This week’s candidate for a breakdown was Adam, whose panic at being assigned to lead the girls’ team speedily transformed him into a manic fusion of Delboy Trotter and Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross. Tasked with creating a new camping product, his team instead constructed a mutated shoebox, seemingly designed specifically to provoke Lord Sugar’s scorn. Adam somehow managed to plead a stay of execution by unleashing a desperate, blustering monologue, which was probably enough to convince the producers that his meltdown still had a few more episodes’ mileage.

So then, the Junior Apprentice: exactly like The Apprentice, but with a more ludicrous set of contestants and a less fearsome version of Alan Sugar to cut them down. Essentially, it’s insipid froth unconvincingly dressed up in business attire – pretty much like the participants themselves.


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