As much as I loathe the reality television phenomenon and as much as I realise how hypocritical it is, once again I was immediately sucked in to The Apprentice when it returned to our screens last night.
Exactly why that is could be linked to any number of issues and questions – none of which I’m prepared to confront at this moment in time.
Like every other reality show, it is car-crash television and it does beam some particularly odious individuals directly into my living room. But whereas with every other show I will reach for the remote control, The Apprentice has me hooked.
I’m not proud of it and maybe one day I might consider going cold turkey to break my addiction. But, for the moment, I’ve bought into this latest series as quickly and as unquestionably as I have the previous two incarnations.
I am in good company, apparently, with a number of high-profile business types listing the show as one of the few “must-watch” moments left on TV.
So what did we learn after the first installment of series three where we introduced to the beauty parade of young(ish) hopefuls?
To begin with, nice guys don’t always come out on top. Car sales manager Andy Jackson effectively stitched himself up in the first challenge by trying to be too inclusive and not ruthless enough and he became the first wannabe to hear the dreaded: “You’re fired!” from Sir Alan Sugar.
But the other big characteristic is a familiar one. So many of the contestants vying for the £100,000-a-year prize of a job with the gruffest boss imaginable display an unbelievable amount of self-confidence which is rarely backed up with any weight or substance.
The fact that so many fall into the trap of thinking that if they shout loud enough and for long enough they will win an argument or make their point more effectively shows how much they still have to learn about so many things in life, let alone in big business.
Of course, the situation they find themselves is artificial and manipulative and the stakes are such that it is likely to bring out the worst in them. But the worst in them had to be pretty near the surface to begin with to be displayed so quickly – and alarmingly in many cases.
We already have our stereotypes – the fast-talking, self-opinionated, aggressive and arrogant Tre and Jadine are already being set up as the panatomime villains; Dr Sophie is the brainiac who will look increasingly like a fish out of water as the series progresses; and Gerri is the friendly-faced, caring, sharing, acid-tongued assassin.
It is still very much early days, so we have a lot more to learn about the others – if they get the chance, of course.
The other noticeable change is that Sir Alan’s two trusted spies in the camp – Nick and Margaret – are clearly starting to warm to their task and the show itself. Raised eyebrows and withering stares have been their stock in trade for the first two series, but now both seem more willing to make a cutting aside or directly challenge the contestants they are keeping a very watcful eye over.
Sir Alan was reportedly unhappy about the quality of contestant on series two of The Apprentice and had more of a say in compiling the shortlist for this series. It is early days, but whereas the last series was a bit of a slow burner this time around The Apprentice has bubbled over quickly.
I’m fired up by The Apprentice already. In so many respects I wish it wasn’t so, but for the time being I can’t wait until next week’s challenge.