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Blogvent – Day 19

19/12/2010

As a rule I’m not a fan of reality tv. I’d venture so far as to say I pretty much cannot abide reality tv. From Big Brother to I’m a Celebrity, you name it I’d usually rather poke out my own eyes with sticks than sit through half an hour plus of idiots vying to be the most annoying person in the room/camp/wherever. Frankly, real life itself offers more than enough of this sort of spectacle and as such I am reluctant to expose myself to it in my leisure time. There must be more people who feel this way but the domination of the television schedules by “reality” game and talent shows would suggest we are in the minority.

Imagine my surprise then when I started getting into this series of The Apprentice. Doubly so when you consider the fact it’s basic premise is to assemble a group of self important, money hungry twats and have them duke it out in order to secure a job as Lord Sugar’s sidekick. In case you have been living under a rock for the past few years it works like this: Sixteen of the “greatest business brains” in Britain are assembled for a protracted and convoluted job interview process where they are tasked for twelve weeks in various ways to see if they have what it takes to make Lord Sugar even more money than he already has. There’s a nomination/elimination process that encourages backbiting and vendetta and the dynamics of the various tasks are such that the pressures on the contestants pour fuel on any personal frictions making for some fiery arguments. Each week Lord Sugar fires (Can he fire them? He hasn’t given them a job yet) the hopeful he feels has made the biggest prick of themself in that given week.

As horrible as it sounds? Pretty much. But strangely compelling nonetheless. This year’s selection of high flying, business types were of particularly low quality. With the exception of one or two individuals (significantly who had both worked their way up from nothing, rather than starting from a position of privilege or financial security) the hopefuls have all been irritating in the extreme. From self proclaimed retail gurus (without a clue) to marketing experts and young wannabe entrepeneurs who are simply, in the words of Lord sugar himself, full of shit.

It was in fact this particular scrote who I think made the series so addictive, probably accounting for his survival through multiple brushes with the dreaded boardroom when he clearly needed to be binned. Stuart Baggs (self proclaimed as more brand than man) has successfully presented himself as a bullshitter of the highest order, irritating, arrogant and worthy of a severe slap. Like some flapping trout I’ve been hooked on the lure of the possibility, week in week out, of him getting his come uppance. As he sidestepped defeat week after week he took it as a vindication that he is indeed the second coming of the business Christ, deserving of the worship and adoration of everyone, Sugar included.

Last week, in the penultimate installment, he got “spectacularly” found out by a few basic checks on his application to the show which uncovered some liberties had been taken with the truth. As a result an enraged Alan Sugar cast him out into the wilderness, declaring him a betrayer and a liar who had shamelessly pulled the wool over his eyes. Satisfying in it’s own way but also a glaring exposure of the truth about all of these kinds of shows. They really aren’t about reality at all.

It seems obvious to me that to even be considered as a contestant on the show your credentials are going to be thoroughly checked and picked apart, most likely by a team of researchers to pursue references and double check every single claim. Clearly the inconsistencies and white lies and blatant lies will have been obvious from the start. At the end of the day, genuine job offer on the line or not, for the show to be worth anything it needs to generate ratings and so it needs to have at least one person in there whose antics keep viewers tuning in. There is also the added element of the power of editing. With a carefully selected montage it is very easy to weight opinions towards individuals, highlighting the negatives, obscuring the positives and so on. Undoubtedly this device was heavily at play for this series (indeed ALL reality series) but knowing its happening actually seems to add to the experience.

Anyway, its over now, Stella quite deservedly won it but I can’t help but feel she would have probably got the job after a traditional interview process, Stuart Baggs has been exposed as a bullshitter on national telly (nothing one minute of conversation with him wouldn’t tell you)  and Alan Sugar has made money out of interviewing for a new employee to exploit for his own financial gain. I can now move on and watch something genuinely good instead.

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