Thunderball

Notreallywatching: The Apprentice 2012

It’s a blogging dilemma: the return of a show you no longer like but just can’t stop writing about. So I’ve decided to go cold turkey and avoid The Apprentice 2012 when it returns to BBC1 tonight. This won’t please my eight-year-old nephew, “Gadget Boy”, who enjoys my blogs about this annual contest to find Britain’s most bombastic and self-deluded young entrepreneur. I know he’ll get over it, though. That’s why God invented iPads.

Lord Sugar’s ugly mug has been plastered all over the front cover of Radio Times — “Buy My Magazine — or You’re Fired”. (Perhaps his first act as guest editor should have been to fire whoever came up with that God-awful cover.) I don’t read Radio Times any more, since I realised that working there was like committing the longest career suicide in history. But I do sometimes listen to Pienaar’s Politics on Radio 5 Live, in which the amiable John Pienaar recently interviewed the ranting Lord Sugar.

To coin some rather graphic American slang, Lord Sugar sounded as though he had “a bug up his ass”. Of course his bad mood could have been a niggling case of haemorrhoids, or the realisation that going into business with Susan Ma wasn’t such a great idea. Ma, you’ll remember, was one of 2011’s Not So Fantastic Four finalists on The Apprentice. Skin care is her area of expertise and, judging from that RT cover, the man formerly known as “Surallan” could do with freshening up his look.

He may have thinning locks, but the former Labour enterprise tsar had plenty of opprobrium to go around. (Perhaps we could bottle his ire and use it to fix the UK’s balance of payments deficit.) He claimed the ongoing kerfuffle about banker bonuses was “electioneering”. If I understood him correctly (and bear in mind I’m not as clever as these bankers), Lord Sugar was saying that we should stop whingeing about having to pay talented bankers to fix the problems caused by irresponsible bankers. Apparently it’s really unfair to pick on RBS’s Stephen Hester, when there are lots of other fat cats with their noses in the trough, who are escaping censure.

He also wagged that famous firing finger at over-indulgent parents and their iGadget-addicted offspring, who are hampered by inflated expectations about the world of work. Of course there’s no way Britain’s youngsters could have got a warped idea about business from watching one of Lord Sugar’s programmes. A reality TV show that houses its contestants in the lap of luxury and rewards their (undeserved) victories with champagne, caviar and spa treatments, couldn’t possibly be sending the wrong messages, could it?

With The Hunger Games due to open here on Friday, you have to wonder whether a reality show in which people merely get ticked off for wasting time and money isn’t a bit tame. So I suggest the way to make The Apprentice 2012 truly indispensable viewing again is to start killing off the losers. The taxi ride to obscurity could conclude with the losing candidate being thrown from an ejector seat. You must admit, it would be more fun than watching yet more solipsistic ramblings.

Lord Sugar could liven up those boardroom sequences by doing something more effective with his digit than just wagging it in headmasterly fashion. He should take a cue from the way Ernst Stavro Blofeld gave “Number Eleven” his marching orders in Thunderball.