Has The Apprentice run on too long?
By Joe Harker
"You're fired!" is a long running catchphrase on television. The British version has been around since 2005 and in that time the central mogul Alan Sugar has gone from being known as Sir Alan to Lord Sugar. The initial aides Margaret Mountford and Nick Hewer have been replaced by Karren Brady and Claude Littner. The format of the show has even been changed after members of Sugar's businesses complained about competition winners being parachuted in, with a £250,000 business investment now up for grabs.
However, the long running show has entered season 13 and any programme running as long as that will have some element of staleness about it. It is still a very popular show, having outlasted several other versions in other countries. The last three finals have all attracted more than seven million viewers, which may be down to the popularity of Lord Sugar, who has become a popular public figure since appearing on the show. The personalities of Lord Sugar and his aides could be keeping the show going, with former aide Nick Hewer proving popular enough to host Channel 4 quiz show Countdown.
Perhaps one enduring strength of the show is the candidates. Although the wicked ways of reality TV make them seem more pompous and arrogant than they really are, the candidates tend to be a "batch of ridiculous people" who talk a big game but make very basic mistakes. It is undoubtedly entertaining to see a collection of wannabe tycoons make simple mistakes.
Despite the appeal of the show, ratings have been dropping in recent years and the new series opener attracted 900,000 fewer viewers than the previous series. While it has given Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan some ammunition to fling at long time rival Lord Sugar, it could be a genuine concern for those that wonder if the show will go on.
Perhaps The Apprentice survives because it is a show people "hate to love", but cannot help themselves from watching. Audiences might groan and look down on the antics of the candidates, but watching them succeed and fail is a guilty pleasure that millions still come back to. Maybe the regular and predictable things about the show keep people wanting more, as viewers tune in and expect things not to have changed too much from previous seasons.
In addition, the show has helped people launch their own businesses. Every winner since the change of format has gone on to succeed in their endeavours, with winners ranging from inventors and recruitment specialists to cosmetic experts. It is possible that the adapted format is keeping the show fresh when other versions around the world have run out of steam or are waiting to be canceled.