The Apprentice

Image:The apprentice logo.jpg



Mark Halliley (voiceover)


The boss: Alan Sugar

The board: Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford

Adrian Chiles (The Apprentice: You're Fired)


Mark Burnett Productions / TalkbackThames for BBC2, 2005-2006; for BBC1 2007-

The Apprentice:You're Fired! BBC3 / BBC2, 2006-

Comic/Sport Relief Does The Apprentice BBC1, 2007-8


When Willy Wonka wanted an apprentice, he didn't advertise the post in the usual way. Nothing so conventional for the inventor of the everlasting gobstopper, oh no. Instead he picked five youngsters at random, drew them into his world and whittled them down by slowly eliminating those that were too greedy, too obnoxious, too incautious or just too damn fond of squirrels (huh?), leaving just the quietest, poorest and, if we're brutally honest, most boring one to become his new protege. It's a pretty dumb method of recruitment, but with a few minor tweaks - increase the intake from 5 to 14, up the age range a little, and replace the chocolate factory with a Sugar empire (ahem) - it turned out to make for 12 weeks of compulsive viewing.

Sir Alan M. Sugar

Each week the would-be tycoons are split into two teams and given a task to carry out, after which someone on the less successful team gets booted out. Tasks include devising a children's toy, obtaining items on a shopping list for the lowest possible price, making food to sell at a farmer's market, and so on. All good, solid Game Show Tasks with a range of possible strategies, plus the advantage of a consistent (if ever-dwindling) set of contestants whom we "get to know" as the weeks pass. Think of it as a bit like Big Brother, but without all that tedious sitting around and loops of birdsong.

It was the contestants that really made this show work. A few archetypes were established very quickly: the motormouth, the plainly-out-of-his-depth, the cold-but-capable, the very quiet, and of course the blatantly unemployable. Why, it almost made you feel sorry for the man who had to employ one of them at the end. (Almost. Actually, he lost our sympathy when it turned out that he watches 4:3 broadcasts stretched to 16:9. Yeah, we understand that he doesn't usually have time to watch telly at all, but really: the guy's made millions out of consumer electronics and he can't even set up a TV properly? Shame on him.)

Anyway, to completely rip off an observation we once saw someone make on another site, the appeal of The Apprentice turned out to be not dissimilar to This Is Spinal Tap with real people. Yes, you'll CRINGE! as one of the contestants pushes ahead with a disastrous scheme against all advice. You'll CRINGE AGAIN! as they attempt to justify their actions to Alan Sugar. You'll SHAKE YOUR HEAD IN UTTER DISBELIEF as a certain person whom we shall not name for legal reasons repeatedly manages to avoid being kicked off the show. And you'll CRINGE YET AGAIN! because it's just that kind of show, really.

Margaret, Alan and Nick

Of course, at the end the quiet one won, and Willy Wonka's recruitment methods were vindicated. Though the producers strangely chose to break away from Mr Wonka's masterplan at that point and failed to set the second series in a great glass elevator, which seems a bit of a wasted opportunity if you ask us. In fact, the programme has stuck rigidly to its original formula even to the extent of casting interchangeable contestants in each series (it's like Cluedo, the faces change but the characters remain the same), which certainly saves us the bother of having to write anything new about it. Oh, except to note that the daft Amstrad emailer phone product that used to glory in its placement on Sralan's desk has, in series 4, at last vanished. Can the format possibly survive this most radical of changes? Watch this space...


"You're fired."


Based on the US show of the same title, devised by Mark Burnett.


2005 Tim Campbell
2006 Michelle Dewberry
2007 Simon Ambrose
2008 Lee McQueen

Theme music

The opening theme music is Dance of the Knights from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.

The tension music and closing theme are by Dru Masters. The music from the boardroom sequence and end credits can be heard on his website.

The piano piece frequently used as incidental music throughout the series is Black And White X 5 by Bill Conti, from the original score for the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.


The sequence where the contestants emerge from Sugar's office and jump into the London taxi is filmed for everybody on the same day, near the beginning of the recording. Therefore, there is always a discrepancy between this sequence and the post-firing vox pop in the back of the taxi. To cover up most of this continuity error, the contestants wear long overcoats.

In case you're wondering, when working on tasks the candidates aren't allowed to tell people they're in a competition, or mention The Apprentice or Alan Sugar. Though the presence of a camera crew (and often, Nick or Margaret) is going to be a bit of a clue, isn't it?

By 2008, the American original of The Apprentice was generally regarded as yesterday's show. With the British version still going strong, producers at financial channel CNBC decided to show our version, promoted with the line, "If you thought the Donald was tough, wait until you get a taste of Sugar". The show was also sold to Australia.

Selected participants

Series 1

Comic Relief Does The Apprentice (2007)

  • Danny Baker
  • Karren Brady
  • Jo Brand
  • Alistair Campbell
  • Cheryl Cole
  • Rupert Everett
  • Ross Kemp
  • Maureen Lipman
  • Piers Morgan (fired)
  • Trinny Woodall

Sports Relief Does The Apprentice (2008)

Comic Relief Does The Apprentice (2009)


The Apprentice (updated edition 2006) - tie-in book by Alan Sugar (also the original 2005 edition)

Web links

Official BBC Site

See also

Weaver's Week review


Image:Tim campbell pic.jpg
Series 1 winner Tim Campbell
Image:Michelle dewberry pic.jpg
Series 2 winner Michelle Dewberry


To correct something on this page or post an addition, please complete this form and press "Send":
If you are asking us a question, please read our contact us page and FAQ first.

Name: E-mail:   
A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in