Having spent the last fortnight overseas and out of reach of a TV or computer I’ve missed arguably two of the most crucial episodes of The Apprentice.
I’m up to speed now thanks to the wonders of technology and a good deal of surfing.
Tonight we see the final pitting Simon “golden balls” Ambrose against Kristina “sell my own grannie” Grimes for the top job alongside the gruffest self-made millionaire in the world Sir Alan Sugar.
But, as ever throughout this third series, it has been the Wicked Witch of the South-West – aka Katie Hopkins – who has stolen the lion’s share of the limelight.
Having endured her overly-smug presence throughout the series, I felt sure she would get her comeuppance sooner or later. However, she survived and despite assuming the role of pantomime villain from a very early stage in the series she was seemingly Sir Alan’s favourite.
Do I have sympathy for her plight in having to turn down a place in the final for refusing to sacrifice her family life? Aboslutely not.
Do I admire her integrity for turning the opportunity down so that Simon and Kristina could proceed to the final? Absolutely not.
Do I feel the various decisions expose the folly of the supposed “family friendly” approach of modern businesses and the quest for work-life balance? Absolutely.
Sir Alan was justified in his alleged grilling of Katie over her unwillingness to commit to moving away from her home in Exeter if she landed the £100,000-a-year job. Wasn’t it obvious that such a move would be required? In Sir Alan’s own words: “I ain’t planning to open an office in Exeter”.
The WWotS-W seemed stunned that such a requirement would be made of her and for that reason alone she deserved to be ditched.
But the interview panel episode was crucial in finally exposing the WWotS-W as a scheming, manipulative, ruthless, arrogant game player with absolutely no desire to be anyone’s “apprentice”. She didn’t show an ounce of inegrity, rather she was found out and had little option but to concede defeat – the fact she has failed to do so with any grace is hardly surprising.
Why Sir Alan should disregard such a pinpoint accurate character appraisal from his supposedly respected interview panel is beyond me – but, then, how the feckless, serial bottler Simon has survived to become a finalist is also a mystery.
However, I do regard The Apprentice as a useful exercise in highlighting what tends to be the reality of the modern workplace.
The work-life balance mantra might be a useful marketing ploy and secure coveted Investors in People-type awards, but the day-in-day-out grind of the typical company and organisation tells a different story. Equally, the level of commitment often expected of employees – from the senior level down – is often incompatible with a family friendly approach.
During this third series we have seen Ifti Chaudhri, Jadine Johnson and effectively Katie Hopkins fall by the way side because of their intention to put their families first and not make Sir Alan or his network of companies their priority.
Equally, single parent Krisstina Grimes was quizzed at length about her willingness to relocate should she be offered the prized job and whether she could balance work and personal life.
So does this point to the reality of modern business and the myth of work-life balance?
Or is it an indication of Sir Alan’s failure to find an “apprentice” with longevity and staying power in the first two series?
The answer is probably “yes” to both questions.
So will it be a case of third time lucky?
We’ll have to wait and see – not just in tonight’s decision but 6, 12, 18, 24, 36 and more months down the line.
Finally, does Sir Alan have the strongest two candidates to choose from?
The kindest answer is that he probably has the best of a pretty bad bunch.