// apprentice

It hardly needs saying if you saw The Apprentice this Wednesday (i’ve tried to list no spoilers in this, by the way, in case you’ve not seen it yet) that it made for a truly scary piece of television. Nobody ever comes out of The Apprentice looking really good, almost as a matter of course, but this year’s group has possessed a level of arrogance, condescension and sheer *rudeness* that’s arguably been lacking in previous years, and Wednesday night ultimately proved a sombre experience. That may come down to the fact that, at the end of it, there is virtually nobody from the group that you would actually *want* to win the competition, or even spend an hour down the pub with… but it has to raise some big questions about the nature of the business that these guys are fighting to get into.

It’s almost as though the facade of respectability that The Apprentice always strove to put up in the past has dropped recently, and this year it became just how apparent how hollow the experience that they are all fighting for really is. Anyone who has been following the fortunes of trainee stockbroker Ben, with his leadership scholarship to Sandhurst, for example, will have noticed the way that he’s fought tooth and nail this far to stay in the running, and you have to ask yourself the question, is this really worth it? Recently, I’d argue it’s a question that he’s been asking himself, too. The same goes for Debra, whose performance on Wednesday struck fear into me not least because of the icy hardness in her blue eyes – it’s a level of drivenness that verges on the manic, the obsessive, and it’s, frankly, terrifying. You wouldn’t believe it, but tonight I watched “American History X”, and that same look is, ironically, in Edward Norton’s eyes as he exacts brutal justice upon the black gang who have attempted to steal his car – a sheer, blinding drive that blunts everything else.

It’s that which has made The Apprentice more exciting than ever before this year, because it stopped being about the tasks and started being ‘credit crunch’ television instead – laying out an exemplary model of what business looks like and implicitly asking its audience, ‘are you sure this is what you want?’ On some level, it always used to be ‘Big Brother for the middle-classes’ anyway, but this year, whether intentionally or otherwise, it’s ended up looking more like a social experiment. The result is undeniably terrifying, and maybe you’ll agree with me after having watched Wednesday’s episode that even the candidates recognised that fact.

I could talk about Biblical models of apprenticeship here, and the models of discipleship that Jesus laid out; could reference Steve Chalke’s new book, conveniently titled “Apprentice”; could talk about looking towards something beyond, having a greater hope and not having to worry about being ’sent home’. But this isn’t the time, and arguably none of that really needs to be said. What Wednesday *did* do, though, is raise very serious questions, about the nature of the competition, the nature of the prize and the people that it is necessary to become in order to reach it. I’m not sure that there are any really good answers on offer in The Apprentice…

If you don’t believe me, check it out on the iplayer (at the bottom of this page) and see whether you agree. If there is anything that make you want to “conform no longer to the pattern of this world”, it’s seeing exactly what ‘the pattern of this world’ looks like. It’s TV that should come with a health warning, but also it’s one of the most challenging television events you’ll see this year, and for that reason it’s well worth checking out. Let me know what you think.

And by the way – at the end of it all, I think I’ve gone back to rooting for James, even against my better judgement…


The Apprentice Series 5 week 6 (available until Wednesday 4th May): http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00k3735/The_Apprentice_Series_5_Episode_6/

  1. very well put. You wrote that so I didn’t have to. And, I tipped James to win the event from episode 2 because I think he’s a nice guy deep down but has issues controlling his temper. Sounds like someone else I know 😉

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