Never Mind the Profit - Keep Sugar Sweet; the Apprentice

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 16, 2005 | Go to article overview

Never Mind the Profit - Keep Sugar Sweet; the Apprentice


Byline: TERRY RAMSEY

HERE it is at last: the home-grown version of the show that took America by storm last year. And I admit, I thought it was going to be pretty ropey.

I was convinced that, having transferred across the Atlantic, it wouldn't have all the thrills of downtown New York; instead, it would be as exciting as a night out in Croydon (but without the threat of imminent violence, obviously).

It is, essentially, a business version of Pop Idol, in which a dozen go-getting hopefuls try to impress an entrepreneur looking for an apprentice.

But there are differences.

The US version starred Donald Trump, a multimillionaire businessman famed globally for his glamorous, wealthy lifestyle.

Ours has Sir Alan Sugar, famed as head of Amstrad, former maker of cheapo computers, currently makers of cheapo email phones. Now, maybe it's just me, but this smacked more of the East End than Trump Tower.

Plus the American competitors were totally in-yer-face, outtoimpress, loud and competitive.

The Brits would surely be much more reserved and polite.

Well, it just shows how wrong 9pm, BBC2 you can be- (Oh, all right, how wrong I can be.) The British competitors may not be quite as brash as the Americans, but they are still revoltingly, egotistically and nastily full of themselves. These are people we will love to hate.

Sir Alan has no qualms about putting them in their place, and he's very good at it. He just loves playing the big bad boss.

Tonight, the competitors form two teams (male and female).

Each group has to buy fresh flowers wholesale and try to make the most profit by selling them to the public. One member of the losing team will be fired at the end of the show.

Of course, this is all contrived, manipulative and faintly silly.

But it is also terrifically compelling. And far better than a night out in Croydon-

Life Begins 9pm, ITV1 One of ITV's big hits of last year returns, with Caroline Quentin, below, playing the genial Maggie who, at 40 and with two children, sees her husband walk out.

Everything is as we left it at the end of the last series: Maggie still has her new boyfriend Paul, the rather dozy history teacher, and she is still working at the travel agent's. What makes this second series different from the first is that this time she is in charge. She is the smart one at work; she controls her kids; she's the one her husband, Phil, turns to when his own life starts turning to dust- Ah yes, the words "boot" and "other foot" spring to mind. …

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