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'It's business as usual for The Apprentice as more useful idiots line up to be fired by Lord Sugar'

The BBC reality series returns with a new cast of hopefuls hoping to impress Lord Alan Sugar with their business acumen

The Apprentice returns with a new batch of hopefuls hoping to impress Lord Alan Sugar. (BBC)
The Apprentice returns with a new batch of hopefuls hoping to impress Lord Alan Sugar. (BBC)

Tonight on BBC One, we’re back at a spooky castle in the Scottish Highlands where a bunch of backstabbing schemers compete for a big money prize.

No, the BBC isn’t serving up a surprise third series of The Traitors: It’s the return of The Apprentice. Back for an 18th series, and hitting the ground running as Alan Sugar challenges another batch of power-suited and booted useful idiots to run a corporate away day in the wilds of Inverness.

No need for me to add “with predictable results” here, as I’m pretty sure you can all guess what happens next. That’s right: Everything runs smoothly, the clients are blown away and Sugar decides not to fire anyone on account of both teams making so much money for him that he could probably buy a small castle of his own.

Yeah, right.

It is — you will be delighted to hear — an absolute disaster. Culinary cock-ups abound. Timing issues threaten to derail any semblance of a plan. The ladies dress up as a tin of Quality Street. And Sugar uses the words 'bloody' and 'disgrace'.

Karren Brady oversees the girls team on their Highlands corporate away day. (BBC)
Karren Brady oversees the girls team on their Highlands corporate away day. (BBC)

In short, it’s the kind of episode where Karren Brady’s mouth says “The client has very high expectations. Let’s hope they can deliver”, but her eyes say “Let’s hope they can’t.”

At this point, that’s about as far as I can go in terms of the finer details. All you really need to know is that this opening episode earned its place on my unmissable pile, even before a couple of the candidates committed the schoolboy/girl error of VOLUNTEERING TO BE PROJECT MANAGER ON THE FIRST TASK.

This latest series had me hooked within the first few minutes as the candidates kept up the fine tradition of taking their CV boasts — which, to them, probably sounded great on paper — and actually saying them out loud.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

“My business will make 10 million in the first five years. I don’t need Lord Sugar, Lord Sugar needs me” –Onyeka.

“The other candidates are just extras on my journey to the top.” — Virdi (“DJ, host, and MC”) who, you will soon discover, is a bit extra himself.

Virdi and Tre face an abseiling task on The Apprentice. (BBC
Virdi and Tre face an abseiling task on The Apprentice. (BBC

“Don’t judge me by my suit and tie — I’m not just another corporate!” - Steve (occupation: just another management consultant).

“I literally have competitiveness in my blood” – Noor (Actually Noor, I think you’ll find you literally have plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets — but let’s not get too bogged down by science).

“I’ve got an extremely high IQ. I’ve got an extremely high bench press. And to top it off, I’m quite good on the eyes” – Dr Asif Munaf, who must have had such an extremely high shortage of time that he forgot to mention he previously flopped on Dragons Den.

Read more: The Apprentice 2024 lineup in full

“I am going to change the world and create a legacy that reverberates through time” - Tre.

And not forgetting my out and out favourite: “I’m one of the top Highland Games athletes in the world.”

Oh no, hang on. That was actually the bloke who was helping to organise the activities on the corporate awayday. My mistake.

On top of all that we have a dentist called Paul who once auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent with his body-popping skills, but who, by the sounds of it, might have been better off offering to sort out Simon Cowell’s veneers.

Plus there’s a couple of pie makers called Paul and Phil, who probably only made it through so Lord Sugar can spend the next three months making pie jokes. (NB. I’d prepare your own bingo cards now if I were you. “Earning a crust” and “I’ll make mincemeat out of you” are surely incoming.)

Lancastrian Paul will probably catch your ear first on account of him sounding even more like Paddy McGuinness than Paddy McGuinness does. If he makes it through to week two I fully expect him to say, “Let the project see the manager.”

Ollie, Asif, Phil, Paul M, and Jack must negotiate food prices for a task. (BBC)
Ollie, Asif, Phil, Paul M, and Jack must negotiate food prices for a task. (BBC)

Speaking of Lord Sugar’s jokes, I should probably just come straight out and warn you that they don’t appear to have improved this year. On a couple of occasions, I swear I actually saw the cattle prod appear in shot in the boardroom when the candidates forgot to laugh.

In fairness though, he does have one of the funniest lines in this opener.

“I have your CVs here,” he tells the candidates. “I read through them for hours, thinking you are a bunch of credible people.”

Alan, mate. It’s series 18. Have you not worked it out yet, old son?

PS Urgent viewing advice: If you don’t want to work out who gets fired at the end of the first show, cover your eyes at the beginning when they show clips from future episodes. Bit of a giveaway, that.

The Apprentice returns to BBC One at 9pm on Thursday, 1 February, 2024.

Read more: The Apprentice