Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Apprentice - What's wrong with the current series?

So we're well in to the eighth series of BBC's midweek flagship show, The Apprentice. Sir David Attenborough recently commented that the BBC is afraid to take risks, and Lord Sugar's (by the way, I don't know why I'm not annoyed at having to address these geezers like nobility: probably because I help to perpetuate the unfair class system myself by working in an independent school) grumpy bandwagon rolls ever on. The formula remains untinkered with, despite it arguably being a flawed one now that it all comes down to your business plan and not how well you cope with a series of demanding, pre-assigned tasks.

So Nick Hewer scowls, Karen Brady furrows her eyebrows and the main man himself issues withering putdowns in the boardroom. The candidates make mistakes that convince everyone from jaded office workers to acne smattered teenagers enclosed in their World of Warcraft bedrooms that they could do better (in the case of the latter, they gave them the chance with Young Apprentice, but that's another story). Everyone seems like an indentikit corporate yuppy nightmare at first, trying to outdo each other with cringeable (a nod to Jamie Lester there) soundbites that would make Tony Blair, haggard, dead eyed version of the Cheshire Cat that he is, wince. But idiosyncracies and quirks soon come through, and you start to root for your favourite. One particularly annoying person tends to come worryingly close to the final, but ultimately someone who probably deserves to wins. And we all enjoy it and look forward to the next series.

But there's something sorely lacking in the current series: and, I'm afraid, it is indeed down to the candidates themselves. There are perfectly competent people (Nick, with his wind battered thatched roof hair, and the impressively calm Gabrielle are my tips to be the top two). No, what's really missing are characters that truly stand out because they're odd/deranged/idiotic. The last series had Jedi Jim and pinball-eyes Tom. The series before, arguably the greatest ever, had curiously endearing punchbag Stuart 'the Brand' Baggs, and Vanilla haired Melissa, who seemed to use a dictionary that exclusively based its entries on George W Bush and the Dr Johnson episode of Blackadder the Third. And so many others beside. Take a look at this to remind yourself:

Matt Edmondson's 'funny bits' for the current series are nowhere near as funny as his ones for series six. Because the characters aren't that funny, and he hasn't got as much material to poke fun at them with. Yes Ricky Martin has his Bond villain eyebrow thing, and pasty faced Adam has a medieval attitude towards women. But the hopelessly out of her depth Jade and slimy Stephen are annoying without having the entertainingly evil poise of Jedi Jim, or the hilariously pompous self-proclamations of the Baggs meister. I wouldn't say any of the candidates are flat out loveable either, in the way that buffoon, yet gifted comic, James McQuillan was in series five.

In short, what's missing is a defining character for the series. This one really doesn't have one. Maybe something will change (I write this just after week nine, where Tom's team somehow won despite Tom himself deciding to spend the first day getting drunk with Adam, and Adam and Jade then producing an advert that was eye itchingly boring). I'll keep watching of course. It does remain diverting enough entertainment. But next series, please, let's have some real unintentional comedy geniuses, otherwise this show could start to be in trouble. If you think you're the best businessperson ever (and you so clearly are), I'm sure the BBC would love to hear from you!

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