Young Apprentice – Yay or Nay?

Is Young Apprentice truly a gateway to success or just a comedy in disguise? Toby Steinberg and Natasha Clark discuss for The Boar.

Toby Steinberg:

To the delight of everyone, Young Apprentice is back. Last time, following the intriguing premise that the only demographic less likable than the regular candidates would be one which combined the same knack for self-promotion with a streak of grindingly irritating precocity, the show was a huge hit. Alan Sugar, newly promoted to divine God-King, is apparently once more in need of the business acumen of a snivelling little piss-weasel to save his financial empire (and perhaps, to succeed him). Luckily, the BBC have managed to find the only other bunch of teenagers in Britain, willing to give up their summers for the appetizing prospect of performing degrading services for a grim yet fuzzy overlord for the very slim chance of a job offer.

Now, former stars of the Young Apprentice have gone onto work in such glamorous institutions as the Warwick SU, so participation is clearly the gateway to unlimited success. That’s the only explanation for the amount of conniving and backstairs bile generated for this paltry reward.

Either that, or the candidates just have an inherent humanity deficit.

The clearest villain of the series is Harry M, arrogant, unfashionably posh and the only participant who looks like he permanently lives in his suit. Now, it’s pretty cheap to quote the Apprenti’s inevitably grandstanding website bios, but hey, I’m a pretty cheap kind of guy. Harry claims to have “[unrivalled] intellect, motivation, confidence and business instinct”, gifts which have presumably guided him to alienate himself from the others. His immediate, obvious rival is Northern Irish lad, James, a sort of disheveled mole creature with a voice straight from hell’s own call centre, who claims “I have integrity, but when winning gets in the way of integrity, [it] goes out the window”. The rest of the contestants fade into anonymity against these two practiced bastards, though Haya, shows promise with her belief in being ‘uncompromising’ to annoy as effectively as either of them at points.

The tasks are as pointless as ever, with success relying upon either an immediate grasp of a different business each week or, more commonly luck. As such, watching Alan gruffly chastise this group of novices has only become more ludicrous. Most striking of all, however, is that despite the sense that these characters are to be mocked and humiliated for their zealous ambition, simultaneously there’s the implication, unique to this version, that they are also admirable high achievers, the best of their generation.

Friends, they are not the future. The best of mankind spent their teenage holidays pissing around in parks and watching television. These smug punks spent their time sucking up to a bored millionaire for our amusement. Watch with contempt.

Natasha Clark:

The Young Apprentice. A bunch of stupid, overkeen, arrogant teenagers embarking on a competition which will transform their lives, gloss over the need for a university education and fast track them into a high flying career of fast cars and impromptu business trips. Apparently.

Still, we mustn’t be too harsh and patronise the little ones with their big dreams. Sucking up to a bored millionaire is still a hell of a lot more than most kids at the age of 16 are doing, or indeed one big kid at 21, writing for university newspapers, watching far too much TV and swinging on banisters in their spare time.

The application process for The Young Apprentice must be pretty tough, even if it does let through mostly idiots. These idiots, however, are the brightest and cockiest of a massive bunch of idiots, and we must commend them for getting a cut above the rest of morons.

Just because the tasks are meaningless and a terribly inaccurate representation of the real life workplace, doesn’t mean that the tasks hold no value: it’s better than no experience whatsoever. In a university world dominated by extra curricular activities, CV writing workshops and Law fairs, a bit of fake ‘real life experience’ will certainly not go amiss.

Those candidates who can apply themselves to a variety of tasks will inevitably be more employable, and the experience itself is a handy eye-opener to some of the things that business hopefuls may be exposed to in their futures. Just because most of them can’t get a grasp on it, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be allowed to laugh at their misfortune. On the contrary, it’s the total opposite; it’s even easier to make fun of those who are younger than us anyway, we’re bigger after all.

Success, ultimately does require a complicated combination of luck, not having a prick like Harry M in your team to argue with and team work. We can only live in hope, that this process will teach them some of the above. The point to remember, however, that this is all for fun. Shoving a group of pubescent teenagers in a house in London for ten weeks would be funny enough but we have Big Brother for that. Place them in an unrealistic business situation where they have little to no experience, common sense or intelligence? Priceless. This shows is, ultimately, comedy disguised as some form of drama-reality hybrid. Embrace it, with caution.

Published in The Boar Volume 34, issue 4, Tuesday 22 November 2011.

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