Damien Love’s TV highlights including Curb Your Enthusiasm
THE UK’S BEST TV CRITIC DAMIEN LOVE RAMPAGES HIS WAY THROUGH THE WEEK IN TELEVISION HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
Wednesday The Apprentice 9pm, BBC One
EIGHTY-SIX years on from the first episode of The Apprentice, as a new series begins, few could blame Alan Sugar if he suddenly screamed a witty spin on the show’s beloved catchphrase – “I’m tired!” – then sprinted across the boardroom and, before anyone could stop him, launched himself, headfirst, crashing out through the high window, to spiral prettily to earth in one of those exciting lookingdown-on-theskyscraperrooftops shots they like so much, beard gleaming in the last red rays of the London sunset. Maybe, at the last minute, a glorious big AMSTRAD parachute would open behind him, like it did for Roger Moore. Maybe not. Actually, though, if anything, 97 years on, The Sugar Man looks as ready for action as ever. But look close, and there is a certain growing restlessness in his eyes. He seems bored, edgy, filled with a hopped-up, antsy ennui: “I’m totally wired!” It is very much as though having to go through all this again, with yet another bunch of metroberks, is precisely the last thing he wants to do. One-hundredand-four seasons on, The Apprentice is now into its Thunderbirds Are Go era. Where, in years
gone by, the candidates were all charming wooden puppets and you could see all the wires sticking out of their heads, these days we get these soulless CGI approximations that seem to have been quickly knocked up using some 2008 software package by a sweatshop of tired 12-year-olds on a tight deadline and a low budget. As they mouth the obligatory hate-me-hate-me nonsense, it’s like listening to a tired AI algorithm that’s been fed a finite amount of words, then ordered to spew back as many gitty sentences as possible until someone pulls its plug. Among this year’s declarations come, “I’ve got my own law firm, assisting landlords dealing with problem tenants and evicting them”; “I’m gonna throw people under the bus, I’m gonna throw people over the bus, I’m gonna get ON the bus”; and “I have size 10 feet.”
As the series begins, The Apprentice voiceover god makes one of his rare, touching, oddly punctuated attempts at pretending the show has any kind of relevancy: “British Business. Is in flux. The future. Far from certain.” But as soon as that Brexit build-up is delivered, it is forgotten, and we’re back into the same old Generation Game routine, watching them trying to make burgers and running around shouting while holding meat.
Faced with this, you have to make your own entertainment, or you go insane. Or both. After 530 years in the role, Alan Sugar’s faithful faceless secretary has a weird and sly private game going on. She’s realised that, if you mutter it fast enough, you can make the words “Rod Stewart” sound very like “Lord Sugar,” and now she slips it in whenever she can: “Rod Stewart will see you now.”
As for Sugar, Karen and Big Claude, they look close to snapping, too. For a second, at the end of episode one, I felt sure Sugar was just going to fire everyone, then give away all of his money – all except for a tiny seed fund of £600, with which he, Karen and Claude would run out into the streets barefoot, making burgers from mud and flogging them themselves, seeing if they could rebuild the multi-billion pound empire from scratch all over again, like they did when the world was young and they were gamblers. One last makeor-break mission. A kind of entrepreneurial version of The Wild Bunch. Maybe next year.
Samantha Womack as Morticia Addams