Neil Hudson: The Apprentice - time to fire the format

Andrew (back row, right) alongside the 17 other contestants

The Apprentice used to be one of the best things on TV.

It was one of the highlights of the autumn schedule, being marginally more stimulating than The X-Factor, Don’t Tell The Bride and countless other shows, all of which are designed to reduce your brain activity to just above zero in the hope you will turn into a TV-zombie whose only aim in life is to buy the things they advertise during the breaks. The Apprentice, of course, has no ad breaks, which gives it a more plausible edge, in that it’s not just about selling more Amazon Dots. I won’t go so far as to call it laudable but for a few years it entertained us with the idiocy of the self-absorbed money-centred candidates who sadly seem to make up the higher echelons of most businesses.

All candidates come in with more bluster than your average tropical storm, with the BS-ometer set to maximum. These mini-Donald Trumps strut their way into the boardroom, only to be found out by the first, seemingly simple task of selling some burgers on the street and are then sent careening across the other side of the boardroom by Old Grumpy Face himself, Lord Shug, who has now cornered the market in dodgy cliched putdowns.

Vis-a-vis this week’s episode, which had them try to decorate a posh hotel room (and fail miserably, obvs), but Shug the Shrug couldn’t resist quipping one of them would be “checking out”. How tired. How shrivelled up. How mauve.

It’s like something from a bad 70s sit-com: not funny on any level. Perhaps it’s not meant to be but my point is, it’s lazy, meaningless drivel.

It’s not just Shug who is clearly bored with the format, it’s the BBC (although they haven’t realised it yet). They seem to pick plonkers on purpose, setting them up to fail.

The Apprentice is now nothing more than You’ve Been Framed with people in business suits.

It flourished because it was original, fresh, it showed us something new: that most business people are dangerously unbalanced and egotistical, with almost no common sense (a scary thought considering most of them run the country) but surely it cannot carry on doing that forever?

That would be like turning up to a party every year and telling the same joke.

If they don’t change it next series, I’m not watching. They need to get rid of the cliches, come up with some new tasks (booze-up in a brewery maybe), find some people who have a bit more nous and give us something inspirational to watch, rather than something which makes me want to set fire to the television and questions my faith in humanity.

School homework gives me that sinking feeling

Most parents will know that when you’re kids get homework, that means you’ve got homework.

My children are six and eight and regularly come home with briefs to find out about how teeth work, what foods are good to eat, how a lighthouse works and so on. This week’s topic for one of them was the Titanic. So, it was out with the old encyclopedia (well, it would have been, except that I couldn’t find one, so I grudgingly reverted to YouTube).

Part of the instructions for this task suggested ‘you might want to build a model’. Seeing as I had some old cardboard boxes lying around, I thought ‘why not?’ and so me the the six-year-old set to with a pair of scissors, a roll of duct tape and a marker pen and before we knew it, we had a sort-of-Titanic, complete with railings purloined from an old Scalextric. It even had funnels (three, we couldn’t find room for the fourth) and as my youngest proudly held it, I thought it would be the best in class.

How wrong I was.

The next day, as I walked my daughter to school, I happened to peer into the classroom, only to see the assistant struggling with what has to be the world’s largest Titanic cardboard model. It was almost as big as her, with FOUR funnels, meticulously painted in the right colours, with ornately decorated windows and the word ‘Titanic’ carefully stencilled on the side. Which kind of gave me that sinking feeling. The next time I build a model for homework, it’s going to be off the scale.

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