Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A mirror on society

After my post in June last year here about The Apprentice (scroll down a bit), I noticed with interest the new series starting tonight. Alan Sugar's tedious pre-series brag claimed it would be nothing like previous episodes, when in fact it appeared to be exactly the same: they're still in an office that Sugar clearly doesn't own, despite the pathetically bad inference being that somehow he does. The contestants may as well be carbon copies of those on the previous show. They had the now de-rigeur intra-team argument at the end between them. Sir Alan's two zombies - sorry, henchmen (or henchwoman) - still have exactly the same furrowed brow expression the entire time. Do these two ever get excited or happy at anything in life?
Surely I can't be the only one who laughed at Sugar's announcement to the assembled drones that "the winner will be on a six-digit salary. But the real prize will be working for me." Something like 20,000 people applied to be on the show, which tells you what a weird society it is we live in: 20,000 people not only idolising this old blowhard but applying for the pleasure of being yelled by him too in his Brentwood HQ. In case we'd forgotten, though, the faceless narrator is at hand to inform us that Sugar - sorry, "Sir" Alan Sugar, before I get arrested by the police for not saying his full name - is boss of the "phenomenally successful Amstrad company". Yes, that computer giant of the last fifteen years that has left Microsoft and Apple quaking in it's shadow. Of course, Amstrad has now been sold off to Sky, leaving most people's knowledge of the company presumably based around those primitive 80's PCs that used BASIC, which some computer boffins doubtless get nostalgic about. Yes, I admit, I had an Amstrad CPC-464.
Despite the cringe-inducing scene in which the seperate groups of men and women sought a 'brand moniker' name for their 'team', their was some enjoyment in seeing posh boy Nicholas de Lacy-Brown's exit, a man who appears to be a bizarre simulacrum of David Cameron and Tim-Nice-But-Dim (just read the bio in that link for hilarity). This, clearly, is what The Apprentice is really about. Never mind that it is as far from 'reality' in a business and work context as it's possible to get, despite it's 'Reality TV' label. Ultimately the program serves as a form of catharsis for the public, whose frustrations are exorcised in the schadenfreude that accompanies all but one of the contestant's downfall.

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