The Apprentice, review: cheer up, telly’s festival of idiocy is back

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Somewhere in Britain there is a factory assembling candidates for The Apprentice (BBC One). The women are banded together in their block-colour dresses, like a packet of felt tip pens, and the men are programmed with ridiculous sayings: 

“My friends call me AK47 because I’m a killer salesperson.”

“I’m confident to the point people think I’m deluded, and that is my strength.”

That last one, uttered by 28-year-old Akshay (“I have this disgusting inner self-belief”), is the essence of The Apprentice. After 16 years, you’d think that the joke would be wearing a bit thin, and ordinarily you’d be right. But the show has been off-screen for the past two years and, while I didn’t miss it one bit, I’m strangely cheered to have it back. Blame the pandemic.

Even Lord Sugar seemed quite jolly, telling his scripted dad jokes. There is one change, which is the absence of Claude Littner – he is recovering from a bike accident. He has been replaced by Tim Campbell, the very first Apprentice winner. Campbell seems like a nice chap, but Littner is a loss; the annual episode in which he dismantles the lies in the candidates’ CVs is the highlight of each series.

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