The only business The Apprentice can teach you about is showbusiness

The 9th series of The Apprentice has hooked viewers in as usual. Every year I always hear people say “No I’m sick of it, not watching it this year”, yet those same people end up saying “X is so conniving, Y deserved to get fired last night, Z is hilarious”.

I personally have watched pretty much every series religiously, it’s compulsive viewing. But I wish people would stop using phrases like “business documentary” and “reality show” around it. Surely by now people should have realised it’s entertainment only. Great entertainment, but nothing more than that.

If you’re trying to use The Apprentice as a way to improve certain business skills, or get a glimpse of what life in the corporate world is like (although as important as things like selling burgers on street corners are, they aren’t exactly what I’d call corporate), then you’re probably not going to learn very much.

For a start, is it me or is pretty much every episode to do with how well you can sell? Yes, it’s a hugely important part of any business, but there’s more to it than that. Things always seem to boil down to who negotiated best and who sold the most. Lord Sugar obviously made his name buying and selling and this seems to be reflected in the tasks.

Secondly, the huge amount of editing that goes on means it’s anything but an insight into how the world of business operates, certainly in the boardroom. Scenes are cut to show certain sides of certain people, and although it makes for excellent viewing, it doesn’t always tell the full picture.

Also, the main reason people watch it is for the character dynamics. Let’s be honest – there’s something enthralling about watching people brag that they have “the sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit and a brain like Einstein” or claiming they take their business inspiration from Napoleon.  But are these the qualities people would necessarily look for in a potential business partner?

I doubt that when entrepreneurs are looking for someone to make an investment with, they send them on a 10 week slog from Glasgow to Dubai, asking them to buy falcon hoods, sell caravans and stab their team-mates in the back to become last man standing. What happened to going in with a business plan and pitching it?

As a compelling, midweek evening watch, The Apprentice is fantastic. The fact that it’s gone on for so long shows the pull it has on British viewers. But let’s just enjoy it for what it is, without pushing it into categories it shouldn’t be.

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