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The Apprentice, Series 9, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

The Apprentice, Series 9, BBC One

The Apprentice, Series 9, BBC One

The entrepreneur show is back and bang on form

Lord Sugar flanked by his 'eyes and ears', Nick Hewer and Karren Brady

“My effortless superiority will take me all the way”, “I'm half machine. I can process things at a speed that is out of this world”, “I have the energy of a Duracell bunny, the sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit, and a brain like Einstein.” Yes, it's that time of year again when a bunch of deluded, fantastical egomaniacs line up to trouser £250,000 from Lord Sugar to invest in their business and jostle, connive and generally make themselves look silly for our entertainment.

The eight men and eight women chosen (pictured below) are a pleasing collection of fools and future leaders. They have primped, preened and powdered themselves, and squeezed themselves into tightly fitting business suits - and the women have made an effort too. One chap, Alex (standing second from right), has overdone the personal grooming in the eyebrows department, while Uzma (seated extreme right) is clearly going to hog the bathroom mirror in the shared house in Holborn but, to be fair, she does own a make-up brand.

At this stage in the game, nine series in, the contestants are as much playing The Apprentice game as their own, which means there's a meta level of participation here - in much the same way that contestants on shows such as Britain's Got Talent, The Voice and The X Factor know that having a good back story will never harm their chances. That realisation - is this for real, or is the contestant a keen student of the boxed set and creating an amalgam of previous winners? - only adds to viewers' enjoyment. It's unlikely, for instance, that Tim (seated extreme left), who describes himself as a “Mexican food entrepreneur” (don't get many of those to the pound), would have dared to linger in the boardroom in earlier shows to plead his case - and in episode one to boot. The sweet chap, a bundle of nervous energy, knows that the quiet ones are often thrown out early on and sought to explain why he wasn't exactly dynamic on last night's task. “You've just won!” screamed Sugar. “Go!”

The boys had won by a very small margin on a selling task, when two of the pushier contestants had immediately and without debate nominated themselves as team leaders; Jaz (standing second from left), a literacy and education company director, led the girls of Evolve, while Jason (seated third from left), a PhD student and property entrepreneur, led the boys in Endeavour.

Selling is in Sugar's blood, of course, and he sets great store by any task involving shifting merchandise, even if it's some "old tut". The teams were sent to Tilbury docks (the round-vowelled Jason, who has lived in London all his life, had never heard of them) and opened containers including bottled water, loo rolls, cat litter and ukuleles, among other things.

Jaz had clearly learnt that loudmouth bullies aren't popular in the boardroom and started her leadership by telling her team what she expected of them and asked what they expected of her. Cue blank looks all round. Jason, meanwhile, was hampered at every turn by back-seat driver Neil (seated fourth from right), a regional manager for soccer centres. Karren Brady, with Nick Hewer Sugar's “eyes and ears”, got his number straight away.

Ultimately the task was decided by the failure of Evolve to sell their cat litter when Endeavour got along to Battersea Cats and Dogs Home first, and trying to flog some godawful tacky Chinese “lucky cat” figurines in, of all places, Chinatown, where clearly no business had thought of buying them already at a fraction of the price directly from, er, China. That last mistake, by the way, lent itself to one of Sugar's appalling puns - "a cat catastrophe"- that we now know to brace ourselves for.

The Apprentice's great strength lies in the producers whittling down the applicants so they have an entertaining balance of numpties and showboaters with serious and quietly strong contenders; if you think the final 16 are sometimes a bit, erm, out there, Sugar has said: “You should see the ones who don't get through.” But it's as much down to fantastic editing - knowing when to let the camera linger on someone talking themselves off the programme or when to go to cutaways showing, for example, reactions to a contestant's bombast, as well as dropping in shots of Brady's gently raised eyebrows and Hewer's distinctive moue when someone is being particularly dense or annoying. It's great to have it back.

  • The Apprentice is on BBC One tonight and continues on Wednesdays



Nine series in, the contestants are as much playing 'The Apprentice' game as their own


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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