The Apprentice is a British business-styled reality game show, created by Mark Burnett, distributed by FremantleMedia and broadcast by the BBC. Based upon the American original of the same name and billed as the "job interview from hell", the programme focuses on a group of aspiring businesspeople competing against each other in a series of business related challenges, in order to win a prize offered by British business magnate Lord (Alan) Sugar. Produced by a number of companies over the course of the show's history, including Talkback Thames and United Artists Media Group, each series consists of around twelve episodes, and are aired either around Spring, or delayed; the first two were aired on BBC Two, before the programme's success led the BBC to move the show to BBC One from 2007.
Since its second series, the show is accompanied by a companion discussion show entitled The Apprentice: You're Fired! that runs alongside a series' broadcast. In addition, the programme has also spawned two celebrity versions for Comic Relief and Sport Relief, and a number of special 60-minute episodes, concentrating on the candidates that were fired in the current series being broadcast or those who made it to its penultimate/final stage. While the programme has been compared to another BBC series, Dragons' Den, its success has led to the creation of Apprentice-related merchandising including a magazine, podcast, and official books, while leading other production companies to produces shows that follow a similar format, including Tycoon, Beat the Boss, and Election.
At present, the show has run for thirteen series, with the most recent revealing in late 2017 that a fourteenth series is being created to be aired at the end of 2018.
|Genre||Reality game show|
|Created by||Mark Burnett|
Nick Hewer (2005–2014)
Margaret Mountford (2005–2009)
Karren Brady (2010–present)
Claude Littner (2015–present)
|Narrated by||Mark Halliley|
|Theme music composer||Dru Masters|
|Opening theme||"Dance of the Knights" by Prokofiev|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||13|
|No. of episodes||156|
|Running time||60 minutes|
Talkback Thames (2006–11)
Mark Burnett Productions (2006–13)
United Artists Media Group (2014–16)
MGM Television (2017-)
BBC Two (2005–06)|
BBC One (2007–)
|Picture format||16:9 (1080i HDTV)|
|Original release||16 February 2005 – present|
The Apprentice (US version)|
The Apprentice (Irish version)
The Apprentice: You're Fired!
Following the success of the first series of the Amercian original of The Apprentice on NBC, which drew in considerable viewing figures, rumours began to surface that there was a possibility the programme could receive a UK version. In March 2004, FremantleMedia confirmed that these rumours were true, revealing that it was in negotiations to sell the rights to the UK franchise with two broadcasters - BBC and Channel 4. On 1 April 2004, the BBC successfully outbid its rival to secure the rights to The Apprentice franchise. With the rights secured, the broadcaster's next focus was on finding a business personality to front their new programme. At the time, the broadcaster's initial choices included Philip Green, Felix Dennis, and Michael O'Leary, but when approached to front the programme, each respectfully declined the offer given to them. Eventually, the BBC approached Alan Sugar as their next choice, and on 19 May 2004, they announced that he had been chosen to head the programme's first series.  When the UK version proved successful, Sugar opted to return for subsequent series as a direct result.
When the show began, the prize offered to the candidates taking part was a job with a six-figure salary, at one of his companies - Amstrad (owned until its sale to BSkyB in 2007), Viglen, Amsprop or Amshold. After a legal incident occurred with the winner of the sixth series, both Sugar and the production team revised the prize being offered, switching it towards a business investment of £250,000 for the winner to use towards their business plan, in exchange for Sugar owning 50% of the new business.
The show's initial stage, which is not filmed, focuses on open auditions and interviews held across the country; this stage searches for the candidates for a series before filming of it begins, which often attracts thousands of applicants. A second round will usually be held in London for a small percentage of applicants, who divide into groups and are asked to do various exercises to test their business skills and to gauge how they work as a team. Following this, between 20 and 30 applicants are chosen and given an assessment by a psychologist, receiving further checks by the production team and providing them with references, before the final line-up is selected from this group and filming can begin. The number of candidates who appear in a series has varied over the show's history, though consists of a balanced number of men and women; for the first two series, the show featured 14 candidates, increased to 16 between Series 3 to 9 (the fifth series featured 15, as a candidate dropped out with little time left to find a replacement), and later 20 to mark the tenth year of the show (the highest number of any variation of The Apprentice), before eventually consisting of 18 candidates from the eleventh series. Candidates who successfully make it into the show are split into two teams, normally by gender, in which they usually pick a team name at the start of the process.
The BBC Comedy website published a spoof video at the beginning of Series 6 revealing more about the candidate selection process.
Throughout the process, the candidates are given around 10 business-themed tasks (11 for the seventh and eighth series), which are designed to test their skills in notable areas - salesmanship, negotiation, requisitioning, leadership, teamwork, and organisation - with each episode covering a single task. Both teams are briefed by Lord Sugar over what the task involves, which also includes the rules they must adhere to (i.e. what they are restricted from doing or using in the task), and the condition for winning the task, with the most common being making the most profit, achieving high sales figures, or coming up with a concept that Lord Sugar feels is the best (such as branding). Both teams often appoint someone in their team as the project manager (PM), who acts as the team's leader and deals with important key decisions, with the choice usually derived from either a candidate's background, or the amount of confidence the team has in their choice, although Sugar himself can either suggest who the team should pick as their PM, or nominate a candidate into the role, based upon his opinion of their performance in the process, their background, or, since the seventh series, from what he has seen of their business plan. As candidate numbers are whittled down during the process, the team are periodically rearranged, primarily in the task's briefing, either to balance out the number, ensure a fair distribution of skills for a specific task, or to give less vocal candidates a chance to demonstrate their abilities.
Each team is provided with two vehicles to use to get around during a task and can only split into two sub-teams for each task, though for some they may also be provided with additional items for them to use, an example being a shop space they can sell in; in one particular kind of task used regularly on the show, teams are given a dossier that dictates what items they need to find with specifications that they must adhere to. Although the teams are expected to work together, the competitive nature of the show means that candidates will often focus on their individual roles and needs rather than the greater good of the team, primarily to prove themselves worthy of winning the process and increasing their chances of making it into the Final of the series. During the execution of their task, each team is followed by one of Lord Sugar's aides, who notes down their opinions, observations and thoughts for later reference in the boardroom, mostly on any noteworthy matters, such as performance, mistakes, and issues, minor or serious; while it is rare for them to intervene, they may do so if an issue arises in the team's actions that needs their attention.
Once a task is finished, the teams/remaining candidates report back to Lord Sugar at the "boardroom" - either following the task's completion, or the day after it has ended - to hear about feedback on their performance and learn the results of their endeavours. The team/remaining candidates that have lost the task are forced to return for further boardroom discussions, whereupon the prospect of being fired from the process usually results in them discussing/arguing the case for why they should remain, along with who among their group should go. The format of the boardroom is set out in three stages - Results -> Task Review -> Final Boardroom - with each conducted as such:
While the boardroom scenes differ for the Interviews and Final (see sections below), there are a number of exceptions in regards to the boardroom format after tasks, which can occur during this scene:
The Interviews stage of the process takes place as the penultimate step of the competition, in which the five remaining candidates in the competition each undergoes an individual set of interviews with a selection of trusted aides of Lord Sugar; for the seventh and eighth series, this stage was assigned as the final step, and featured the four remaining candidate in each respective series' competition. In this stage, each interviewer questions the candidates over various matters, from their performance in the process, why they applied for the show, the content of their CVs, and their personal attitude with others, and often probe and scrutinise any brash, boastful, or controversial statements that they have made, including on their application forms and CVs, which can usually see them encouraged to prove such outlandish claims are truthful or were made up. The aim being to determine the suitability of the candidate for the prize being offered by Lord Sugar. Since the seventh series, following the change of prize, the interviewers now scrutinise a candidate on their business plan, determining how feasible it is, if the candidate can achieve the plan, as well as rooting out any potential flaws and issues that come with it.
After candidates have been through their interviews, and Lord Sugar has heard feedback from the interviewers, he conducts a boardroom session to discuss with the candidates over what he has learnt about them, as well as reviewing their performance on the tasks they undertook. Eventually after discussions, he will determine who he feels has potential to move on to the Final, with his decision usually resulting in three candidates being fired at this stage of the competition; there has only been one instance in the show's history where Lord Sugar fired just one candidate, as the feedback from the interviewers during the third series' competition made it difficult to fire more than one. For Series 7 & 8, where the Interviews was the final task, his decision determined who won the competition.
|Interviewers||Series 1||Series 2||Series 3||Series 4||Series 5||Series 6||Series 7||Series 8||Series 9||Series 10||Series 11||Series 12||Series 13|
The final stage of the competition sees the finalists of the process compete against each other in one final task, with the outcome influencing Lord Sugar's decision on who wins the current series' competition, though his choice is determined through a comparison of the two candidates, and is not influenced purely on how successful a candidate is in the final stage, but also other factors connected with them such as their overall performance in the competition, and the overall feedback he has received about them. Whereas in Series 7-8, the Interviews stage was the final task, prior to these series and after them, the task sees the finalists being able to form a team out of a selection of returning candidates that had been fired over the course of the competition, their choices affected by past experiences with them, how well they worked together, or if their skill set can help improve their chances of winning.
For Series 1-6, the final stage was a purely business-styled task, as a final test of a candidate's skill set and their suitability to the job being offered as a prize in these series. For Series 7-8, following the change of prize, the task primarily focused on determining how potential a candidate's business plan was for investment, via interviews. Since the ninth series, the final task reverted to a similar format prior to Series 7, though was altered in that the finalists' task is to promote their business idea, presenting their proposed plan along with its brand identity to a group of industry experts. In all versions, the finalists eventually reconvene at the boardroom in which Lord Sugar discusses with them over their performance, the feedback they got, and voices his final opinions of the candidates, Eventually, he declares his choice, proclaiming to the winner he points to with the words "You're hired!", at which point the winner departs in Lord Sugar's limousine and conducts a brief victory interview, reflecting on their success in the competition.
While only two finalists ever reach the final stage, Series 4 featured four finalists, who were divided up into pairs, working as joint project managers respectively on the final task, with Lord Sugar effectively firing the pair who performed poorly, and making his final decision on who won, between the candidates within the remaining pair.
|Advisers||Series 1||Series 2||Series 3||Series 4||Series 5||Series 6||Series 7||Series 8||Series 9||Series 10||Series 11||Series 12||Series 13|
Each boardroom session featured in the show consists of the same setup for "The Board", in the form of a panel that evaluates the performances of the candidates in the competition. Along with Alan Sugar (the "boss"), the panel consists of his two personal advisers, who are assigned to watch over the candidates during each task of the competition; to date, four people have operated as Sugar's advisers, of which two currently remain a part of the show in this respective role. The following details each member of the board:
|Series||Premiere date||Finale date||Honour places||Average viewers|
|1||16 February 2005||11 May 2005||Tim Campbell||Saira Khan||2.60|
|2||22 February 2006||10 May 2006||Michelle Dewberry||Ruth Badger||4.43|
|3||28 March 2007||13 June 2007||Simon Ambrose||Kristina Grimes||5.62|
|4||26 March 2008||11 June 2008||Lee McQueen||Claire Young||7.29|
|5||25 March 2009||7 June 2009||Yasmina Siadatan||Kate Walsh||8.37|
|6||6 October 2010||19 December 2010||Stella English||Chris Bates||7.87|
|7||10 May 2011||17 July 2011||Tom Pellereau||Helen Milligan||8.80|
|8||21 March 2012||3 June 2012||Ricky Martin||Tom Gearing||7.35|
|9||7 May 2013||17 July 2013||Leah Totton||Luisa Zissman||7.34|
|10||14 October 2014||21 December 2014||Mark Wright||Bianca Miller||7.40|
|11||14 October 2015||20 December 2015||Joseph Valente||Vana Koutsomitis||7.18|
|12||6 October 2016||18 December 2016||Alana Spencer||Courtney Wood||7.12|
|13||4 October 2017||17 December 2017||Sarah Lynn
Hired: Tim Campbell
Runner-up: Saira Khan
Hired: Michelle Dewberry
Runner-up: Ruth Badger
Hired: Simon Ambrose
Runner-up: Kristina Grimes
Hired: Lee McQueen
Runner-up: Claire Young
Hired: Yasmina Siadatan
Runner-up: Kate Walsh
Hired: Stella English
Runner-up: Chris Bates
Hired / Business Partner: Thomas Pellereau
Runner-up: Helen Milligan
Hired / Business Partner: Ricky Martin
Runner-up: Tom Gearing
Hired / Business Partner: Leah Totton
Runner-up: Luisa Zissman
Hired / Business Partner: Mark Wright
Runner-up: Bianca Miller
Hired / Business Partner: Joseph Valente
Runner-up: Vana Koutsomitis
Hired / Business Partner: Alana Spencer
Runner-up: Courtney Wood
The first series began in February 2005, with the opening theme being "Montagues and Capulets". The viewer ratings climbed to almost 4 million viewers for the final episode on 4 May 2005. The winner of this series was Tim Campbell, who had previously worked as a Senior Planner within the Marketing and Planning Department of London Underground. After his victory he went on to become Project Director of Amstrad's new Health and Beauty division at the time, but left the company to pursue other interests the following year, starting up the Bright Ideas Trust in 2008 which offers funding and support for young people wishing to start their own business.
In August 2008, the American cable channel CNBC began to present the first series on Monday nights, but it was aired in disparate time slots or not at all due to the network's abrupt shifting of their programme schedule in order to cover developments regarding the global financial crisis of 2008–2009, leading to the series not being broadcast in full. With CNBC deciding to focus their prime time schedule on financial news programming, the programme's rights were moved to BBC America, where it started transmission on 5 May 2009.
The second series began on 22 February 2006, with a spin-off programme introduced on BBC Three to air alongside it called The Apprentice: You're Fired!. The series finished with a record of 5.7 million viewers watching the final being won by Michelle Dewberry. Dewberry briefly took up a post under Sugar following the series, but left in September 2006 after a series of personal problems.
For the third series, 10,000 applications were received by the production staff, with a promise made to incorporate "tougher tasks and better people", after Alan Sugar expressed concerns that the show was becoming similar in format to that of Big Brother. Alongside this, the BBC also revealed that the programme was being moved over to BBC One and aimed at a more "mainstream audience", with the broadcaster subsequently moving The Apprentice: You're Fired! to BBC Two as a direct result.
The series started on 28 March 2007 with viewing figures of 4.5 million, climbing throughout the run to a peak of 6.8 million people, all watching the final being won by Simon Ambrose. Ambrose went on to work at Sugar's property company Amsprop, including a project to develop a hotel and golfing complex near London Stansted Airport, before leaving his employment in 2010.
Candidates applying for the fourth series were invited to do so through the programme's official website, leading to 20,000 applications being submitted for the series, and 16 of them making it through to take part in the show. Its first episode aired on 26 March 2008, with its debut attracting 6.4 million viewers. This climbed to around 8.9 million viewers for the final episode, with an additional 800,000 viewers tuning in for the episode's final 15 minutes, to catch Lee McQueen winning the series. Lee went on to initially work for Sugar's company AMSHOLD, where he phoned in sick on his first day, and then went on to work for AMSCREEN as development director, reporting to Sugar's son, Simon Sugar, before leaving his employment in 2010.
Prior to the start of filming for the series, Adam Freeman, one of the lucky sixteen that had made it onto the fifth series, was forced to pull out; it was stated that his reasons for doing so were due to a "family matters". This meant that when the series began on 25 March 2009, viewers got to see fifteen candidates vying for the prize, with Margaret Mountford announcing her decision to stand down as a participant of the show during its broadcast, officially confirming it on You're Fired. The series was won by Yasmina Siadatan, who started a relationship a few weeks later with Andrew Hepburn, a fellow development manager, resulting in her getting pregnant. She effectively gave her notice to Lord Sugar during 2012 before she was due to return from maternity leave, after she had fallen pregnant again.
Following Mountford's departure, Karren Brady was officially revealed as her replacement on 30 August 2009, later revealing in a newspaper interview on 28 February 2010 that the contestants would no longer refer to Alan Sugar as 'Sir Alan', but instead must call him 'Lord Sugar', following his elevation to the House of Lords. Because of the 2010 General Election being held in the United Kingdom, the BBC opted to delay the sixth series until after it had been held, as Alan Sugar had ties to the government at the time; although he stated his intention of maintaining his position in the show, the running of The Apprentice during the general election could have been a "risk to impartiality". Advertising of the series commenced after it was held, throughout the Summer, with the opening episode eventually broadcast on 6 October 2010.
The series was won by Stella English, who was placed into Sugar's company Viglen. In May 2011, she requested a new role after saying that she was just a "glorified PA", and retained this for a year before it was decided not to renew her contract. The decision drew considerable media attention, after she attempted to sue Lord Sugar for wrongful dismissal in February 2012, only for the legal action to be ultimately unsuccessful. Her actions ultimately led to change in the show's format and its prize by both Lord Sugar and the production company.
Applications for the seventh series began in April 2010. Between the applicants being processed, to the filming of the first task, Lord Sugar announced that the prize had been changed, and that now participants of the show were competing for an investment from him of £250,000, with Sugar becoming their business partner, owning a 50% share, but also providing guidance and support from himself and a team of experts to help develop the winning candidate's plan. Those applying prior to this announcement, were not aware of the prize change until later on. The sixteen candidates who eventually secured a place on the series were revealed on 3 May 2011, via the official website and in a press launch, with the opening episode aired a week later on 10 May.
In a change to format, the final involved the Interviews that candidates undertook, though these included a scrutinising of the candidates' business plans as well. Thomas Pellereau became Lord Sugar's first business partner, whereupon he used his prize to launch a range of manicure products with assistance from Lord Sugar, including a line of curved nail files - the S-file, the S-Buffer and the Emergency File, two curved nail clippers, the S-Clipper and S-Clipper mini and a curved foot exfoliator, and the S-Ped - which were made available with major retailers in the country. While Susan Ma failed to win the series, Lord Sugar admitted he liked her plan, later investing into her skincare company Tropic in 2012.
The eighth series began on 21 March 2012, and was the last to use the format for the task layout as was used in the previous series, while it was the first to feature have the finales of both the programme and its spin-off, You're Fired, combined into a two-hour episode. The series was won by Ricky Martin, who used his prize to launch his joint venture recruitment company called Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS), on 23 October 2012, which was designed to deal with recruitment in the field of science. Ricky was subsequently invited back to appear on the tenth series as an interviewer.
The ninth series began on 7 May 2013, and saw the format of the task layout reverted to its original approach prior to the seventh series, though with the final task amended to focus on the investment prize, in which the finalists of the process had to conduct a presentation of their business idea to a panel of experts, including branding, an advert, and answering any questions given about their proposal. The series was won by Leah Totton, who used her prize to open her first cosmetic skin clinic on 22 January 2014.
Because of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2014 Commonwealth Games, the tenth series was postponed until mid-Autumn to avoid clashing with the live coverage of both sporting events. To commemorate the programme's tenth year, the series featured 20 candidates, with two of the tasks dedicated towards the items that had featured within them. The series began on 14 October 2014, was won by Mark Wright, who used his prize to start an SEO business called Climb Online. The series was the last to feature Nick Hewer, who announced his decision to depart from the show during its broadcast, officially confirming it on the series finale, during the You're Hired half of the episode.
Due to the 2015 General Election, the show was postponed until mid-Autumn, to avoid clashing with the political event due to Lord Sugar's ties with it at the time. Because of Hewer's departure, Claude Littner was confirmed as his replacement prior to the opening episode of the eleventh series on 14 October 2015, though he retained his role as one of the key interviewers of the Interviews stage. The production staff now focused on applicants who were older and more experienced in business, with the number of candidates taking part now increased to 18. The series was won by Joseph Valente, who used Sugar's investment and assistance to help him expand his plumbing business, Impra-Gas. The pair worked together on developing the business model for two years, until Valente announced in early 2017 that he intended to go solo and would be assuming full control. Both men parted ways on good terms, with Valente thankful for the help and opportunity that he had gotten, while Sugar wished him the best of luck and that he would be following the company's progress.
As before, the BBC postponed the twelfth series to mid-Autumn, so as to avoid clashing with live coverage of Euro 2016, the 2016 UK EU membership referendum and the 2016 Rio Olympics that were to take place during the Summer. The series began on 6 October 2016, and was won by Alana Spencer, who used her investment to kickstart a nationwide bakery business called Ridiculously Rich.
Like the previous series, the thirteenth series of the show was broadcast in Late Autumn 2017, though this was made purely done due to the scheduling that had been done in the past to avoid major sporting and political events being held in the UK. The series began on 4 October 2017, and was won by both James White and Sarah Lynn, making it the first time in the show's history where two finalists were joint-winners.
|Record||Record holder||Record information||Series|
|Most collective victories
Most consecutive victories
|Helen Milligan||10 task wins
9 consecutive victories
|Most collective losses||Tom Pellereau
|8 task losses||Seven|
|Most consecutive losses||Elle Stevenson
|6 consecutive losses||Eleven|
|Most collective final boardroom appearances||Syed Ahmed
|5 boardroom appearances||Two|
|Most consecutive final boardroom appearances||Adam Hosker
|4 consecutive boardroom appearances||Three|
|Largest victory||Venture||Winners by 800,000 to 0||Seven|
|Smallest victory||Eclipse||Winners by just a 97 pence difference||Three|
Every series of The Apprentice is pre-recorded before its broadcast - although the show's twelve-week broadcast schedule gives the impressions that each episode was filmed over a period of 12 weeks, in actual reality, each series' filming schedule is conducted within a two-month period, a few months before the show is to be aired. While the candidates do have a break between tasks to relax within the large rented house or apartment with which they are provided by the production team for the duration of the competition, each task is generally performed with a much closer time-frame than it appears on the programme.
Compared to the US series, the British version has a more rigid format that requires the production team to provide enough footage for each series, that is to be then incorporated into twelve separate episodes. Early rules in filming meant that multiple firings were not allowed in the first two series, a fact that was acknowledged as an issue by Lord Sugar when he expressed his desire to fire both Alexa Tilley and Syed Ahmed following a task in the second series, but could only get rid of the former. In subsequent series, this rule was changed after the show increased the number of candidates for the competition, meaning that Lord Sugar could conduct double firings where needed by the film crew as part of the filming schedule.
Filming for many of the tasks involve locations within London and across the UK in various cities and towns, and on a number of occasions when tasks take the teams abroad, across Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and the United States. For each series, the candidates are provided with accommodation within an upmarket area of London selected by the production team, with every episode's opening and ending scene being filmed at this location, utilising a mixture of exterior and interior shots of scenes; filming is also done on site if the candidates are conducting work on a task within the building.
For other outdoor shots used as part of the other scenes in an episode, the locations have varied. Between the first and third series, both the show's opening credits and the post-firing "walk of shame" exit sequences were filmed outside the Amstrad HQ building in Brentwood, but from the fourth series onwards, following Amstrad's sale to BSkyB in 2007, filming of these scenes are done in front of the Viglen HQ building in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which until that point had been used a filming location for the interviews stage of the competition, and continued to do so until 2014 when it was decided to change the filming location to the Leadenhall Building. In addition, between the fourth to ninth series, the show's Walk of Shame scene was filmed at night, but the tenth series changed the filming schedule to have this done during the afternoon. For the scenes involving the losing team discussing their loss, the film crew have used two cafes - "The Bridge" in Acton, West London; and "La Cabana 2" in North London - though editing of these scenes is done to make it appear that candidates only enter The Bridge cafe.
Although the show uses footage taken by its film crew for most of the episode shown, aerial footage of various buildings in London is used on The Apprentice, mainly to acts as small links between scenes and as part of the show's opening credits, and have included shots of the Square Mile and Canary Wharf financial districts, as well as the 180-metre Gherkin, HSBC Tower, One Canada Square, the Citigroup Centre, and the Shard; such locations aren't used for filming unless a task involves visiting the site.
Filming of an episode can usually take a considerable amount of time to be done and as such, each task is usually filmed back-to-back, rather than weekly as it appears in the broadcast schedule for a series. For each episode, four television crews are used to follow the candidates during a task, and often are focused on picking up on mistakes and issues between candidates, than on their overall performance. The final edit of an episode often trims down a task that took 2–3 days to be done, to fit it within approximately about half of what will be televised for that episode, meaning candidates may appear to make minimal contributions when in reality they made more, while others may not feature as much if Lord Sugar or his advisers feel they did well and completed their duties, as emphasis is often put on moments that can be entertaining for audiences. Often the filming of an episode can hamper the efforts of candidates in a task, due to film crews usually having to get filming permission first from the respective owner of a store or establishment, which can often be a time consuming and cumbersome process as a result, whilst the strict rules of the BBC on product placement and advertising mean candidates have to approach businesses with care when asking them for help.
Owing to the need for secrecy during the two months of filming, all candidates are made to sign a confidentiality agreement which prohibits all, but a few confidants nominated by them, to be told of where they will be during that time, which remains active after filming until the series has started broadcast. As part of this agreement, all contact with the outside world is restricted to a high level - each candidate gets a limited phone call once a week, have no access to newspapers, television or internet,and is required to hand in any electronic communication equipment they have (i.e. mobiles) before they begin. In addition, all candidates are made to remain in their accommodation throughout filming except when they must head out for a task, and can only take a day off if they are supervised by a chaperone from the production crew. As a result, the persistent presence of the cameras, the closeness of rivals in the competition and the lack of contact with families & friends, can cause considerable pressure and stress for a candidate between entering the process, to leaving it.
Scenes filmed in both the "boardroom" and the reception area that resides next door to the room, are in fact done within a custom-built set at Black Island Studios, with the boardroom receptionist actually being an employee of the production company, Talkback Thames, and not Alan Sugar's real secretary. Filming of each candidates' "walk of shame" exit sequences is mainly done towards the beginning of a new series, which can lead to the fired candidate's clothing and hairstyle being different to that in their final boardroom scene before their dismissal from the competition. The post-firing taxi ride that occurs after their departure doesn't take the candidate home as it appears in the show, but merely takes them around the block to allow their taxi interview to be filmed, after which they are then taken to a local hotel to stay the night before being finally allowed to leave after packing up their belongings from the house.
For the final, multiple endings are filmed for the candidates who make it to the end of the process, although Lord Sugar does not reveal who he will hire until shortly before transmission. This determines which ending is shown as part of the series finale's final edit. Notably, the BBC has released two statements regarding the decision procedure which are considered to be contradictory; while the first states that Sugar makes his decision on the day that the final boardroom sequence is filmed, based on the contestants' performance in the final task, and keeps it secret until just before transmission, the second states that he decides after a six-month trial period. Former candidate, Saira Khan, notably stated that his final decision "is not based on the programme that people see", but is based on "these two people [who] have been working with him for the six months."
Following the decision to commission a second series of the programme, the BBC decided to create a spin-off companion programme to accompany The Apprentice, with its format operating in a similar manner to that of Big Brother's Little Brother and Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two. Originally aired on BBC Three, before it was moved to BBC Two alongside the main programme's move to BBC One, the show is broadcast alongside the latest series of the main show, with each episode featuring the host and a group of guest panellists - business people related to the task, presenters of TV/radio programmes, and comedians - performing an in-depth look into the recent task of the programme, while also interviewing the most recently fired candidate(s) and analyzing their performance. The shows are recorded at Riverside Studios, and is currently hosted by Rhod Gilbert since the beginning of its eleventh series; it was previously hosted by Adrian Chiles, Dara Ó Briain and Jack Dee respectively.
The beginning of the third series saw the launch of a weekly podcast called The Apprenticast, and a radio programme on BBC Five Live, both hosted by former Blue Peter presenter Richard Bacon and running for thirty minutes. Both programmes featured former candidates being questioned by members of the public, comedians, and those who work in business. Some critics have described Bacon's performance as better than that of Adrian Chiles, who presented the similar, but television-based, programme The Apprentice: You're Fired!
Following the second series of The Apprentice, the BBC announced that, as part of its Winter/Spring 2007 programming schedule, a celebrity version of the programme would be recorded in aid of the charity Comic Relief, entitled Comic Relief Does The Apprentice. While the format of the American celebrity edition, The Celebrity Apprentice, was filmed to be a full series when it was broadcast, the Comic Relief special functioned on a simple format, in which it featured ten celebrities split between two teams - a "boys' team" and a "girls' team" - and consisted of two parts covering a single task, with any money raised going to the 2007 Comic Relief fund, though it would retain certain key elements from the main programme, such as the boardroom scene and Lord Sugar "firing" one of the celebrities. Filming of this special was conducted on 15 December 2006, with the celebrities that participated being Piers Morgan, Alastair Campbell, Cheryl Cole, Danny Baker, Jo Brand, Karren Brady, Maureen Lipman, Ross Kemp, and Trinny Woodall; the special also featured Rupert Everett, though he was later replaced by Series 1 winner, Timothy Campbell, after he left on the first day of the task. The two part special aired on 15 and 16 March 2007 on BBC One, the second part as a film segment for Red Nose Day 2007, with the celebrities raising over £1 million for charity.
After the first celebrity version proved a success, the BBC gave the green light for a second edition, this time being a two-part special entitled Sport Relief Does The Apprentice, and airing on 12 and 14 March 2008, as part of Sport Relief 2008. The format remained the same, with the celebrities that participated being Phil Tufnell, Nick Hancock, Lembit Öpik, Kelvin MacKenzie, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Lisa Snowdon, Jacqueline Gold, Louise Redknapp, Clare Balding and Kirstie Allsopp.
A third celebrity edition of the show was made for Comic Relief in 2009, with the two-part special of Comic Relief Does The Apprentice airing on 12 and 13 March 2009, with the celebrities that participated being Alan Carr, Jack Dee, Gerald Ratner, Jonathan Ross, Gok Wan, Michelle Mone, Patsy Palmer, Fiona Phillips, Carol Vorderman and Ruby Wax. Although Ross had been suspended by the BBC over the prank telephone call row that occurred during the time that the special was being filmed, the broadcaster permitted him to appear in it due to the fact that it would be airing after his suspension had been lifted.
As the main programme began to grow in success, Lord Sugar took notice of the number of young viewers the show was attracting, and went into discussions with the BBC in March 2008 to propose the creation of a junior spin-off of the show, featuring a young age-group of candidates and being aired in an early evening timeslot on BBC One. Despite a lack of interest, Sugar went into negotiations on the idea in early 2009, whereupon the BBC gave the green light for the project after the idea was revised. In May 2009, while the fifth series of The Apprentice was underway, the broadcaster announced the spin-off's production during an episode of The Apprentice: You're Fired! with news that it had begun an application process aimed at young candidates aged between sixteen and seventeen. Both the filming schedule and the format of the spin-off differed greatly with the main show, with the most notable differences being that Lord Sugar was gentler with the young candidates when firing them from the spin-off, the candidates faced mainly standard tasks and no interviews, and the winner received a £25,000 investment from Sugar to fund their further education and future prospects.
The first series of the programme began on 12 May 2010, under the title of Junior Apprentice, consisted of 10 candidates split evenly between gender, and ran for a total of six episodes. It also marked the debut of Karren Brady as Margaret Mountford's replacement, after she left the main show following the fifth series; Brady would later begin her first appearance on The Apprentice at the start of its sixth series. The spin-off later led to the BBC commissioning two more series, though with a few changes - the show was renamed as Young Apprentice, with the number of candidates increased to twelve and the number of episodes increased to eight. The second series began airing on 24 October 2011, while the third began on 1 November 2012.
The spin-off was eventually cancelled after its third series, after Lord Sugar revealed on his Twitter account in February 2013 that the BBC had decided to not renew Young Apprentice for another series.
The following is a list of specials that have aired alongside the majority of the series:
The following is a list of programmes that were one-offs:
Alongside specials connected to the main show, an Apprentice Special of The Weakest Link aired on BBC One on 30 May 2008. It featured memorable candidates from past series of The Apprentice along with Apprentice narrator Mark Halliley replacing Jon Briggs as gameplay voiceover.
The programme has been given positive reviews by several newspapers. In the popular press, The Sun newspaper has called it "The thinking man's reality show", and The Daily Mirror described it as "jaw-dropping viewing". Broadsheet newspapers have given the programme a similarly positive reception, with The Daily Telegraph calling it "The most addictive show in years", and The Guardian saying that it provided "A salutary lesson in aggressive buying and selling, hiring and firing". The Sunday Times said that it was "not just a game show: it's a business school." The Evening Standard was also favourable, describing the programme as "terribly compelling".
According to a report released by Ernst & Young in August 2013, the rise of popular television programmes like The Apprentice, have helped to encourage and foster an entrepreneurial culture across the UK. The report revealed that 71% of entrepreneurs surveyed thought the UK encourages an entrepreneurial spirit.
The programme has been criticised in the British media for suggesting that success in the business world requires possession of unsavoury qualities. Terence Blacker of The Independent newspaper, for example, said that he believed that the programme falsely linked success with being "nasty, disloyal, greedy and selfish". Talk show host Sir Michael Parkinson has also expressed misgivings about the programme, describing it as being "full of vulgar, loud people who, for all the wrong reasons, are dobbing each other in".
The premise of the show itself has been called into question by some members of the business world. Steve Carter, the head of recruitment firm Nigel Lynn, described the "brutality" of the recruitment process as being unrealistic. None of the winners of the first six series of The Apprentice stayed with Sugar's companies over time, some for only a matter of weeks, leading it to be criticised as "an entertainment show with no real aspect of business to it", while Stella English described the job as a "sham" when she took Lord Sugar to court on a case of constructive dismissal that was later unsuccessful. In response to these criticisms, a spokesperson for The Apprentice has been quoted as saying "The show isn't designed as a tool for recruiters... but it does highlight and thoroughly test key business skills such as leadership, teamwork, dedication and strategic thinking – integral skills most recruiters are looking for".
Former contestant and runner-up Saira Khan has criticised the programme because the final two candidates both work with Sir Alan Sugar for a few months before he decides whom he will hire. Khan stated that "Sir Alan Sugar's final decision is not based on the programme that people see, his final decision is based on these two people who have been working with him for the six months." Khan also said that the show is more concerned with giving viewers a rags-to-riches ending than employing the most able candidate, and that the show promotes bullying in the workplace. The series has been notably edited afterwards to show the winner in a different light. This has led to some viewers correctly guessing the winner of the series partway through the series.
Former contestants Lucinda Ledgerwood and James Max have criticised the tasks on the show as being too heavily sales-focused and designed for entertainment rather than as tests of all-round business skills.
A number of people have criticised the show's editing and production methods. Contestants Syed Ahmed and Tre Azam accused the show of dumbing down their appearances for entertainment. Gerri Blackwood said that her boardroom scene was filmed again to make it look better. Alan Sugar himself revealed in his autobiography (but did not criticise) that the boardroom scenes are edited to create tension. Jokes and light hearted encounters are cut out, and Alan is seen "banging the table".
Media Watch has voiced concerns over inclusion of company names and products such as Chrysler in the programme, accusing the producers of breaking BBC policy. Despite these claims, Talkback Thames has denied any suggestion of product placement.
The show received criticism from viewers during series six after it was revealed that orders placed in the programme were not genuine.
Runner up of the eleventh series, Vana Koutsomitis criticized the living conditions that candidates live in; granted they are accommodated in a lavish house, Vana claimed that the bosses impose living conditions similar to Big Brother - with strict rules and zero contact with outsiders. She said "They just throw you into a house and tell you that you have no phone, no internet and you’ll have no contact with the outside world, You can only talk to your family once a week for 10 minutes and that’s monitored. And we weren’t allowed to go to Boots to grab something. We had to be monitored and guided there." She continued; "I think that element of cabin fever and psychological torture is not necessary for a business competition. I don’t believe that you need to isolate people. I think you can gauge people’s business skills without putting them in that environment.
Vana's criticism of the living conditions that candidates live in which they have zero contact with outsiders was also brought up a year later by contestant Aleksandra King who left the process in the fourth task, following her departure she said: "I can't tell you in exact detail how much contact I was allowed with my family but, for me, the restricted contact was not good enough. I would have liked to have picked up the phone and just said, "How are you guys? OK, Great." I was not able to do that. I've got a nine-year-old, a seven-year-old and a five-year-old but it's the work-life balance thing because there are other mums in there who have younger kids and it was OK for them. But for me, I started to get slightly irritated because I felt like why is this even a business tip, what has lack of contact with my family got to do with it? It was winding me up and going on in my head.' King later remarked that The Apprentice includes a "blame culture" and the atmosphere "wasn't necessarily great for business".
The Apprentice has received high rating figures in its run. The first series, broadcast in 2005, achieved an average of 2.5 million viewers, with a peak of 3.8 million people watching throughout the series. It had an 11% share of the audience and some episodes managed to beat more popular programmes, such as Desperate Housewives, and some films, such as Ali G Indahouse, which were airing on rival channels at the time. Series Two achieved 4.4 million viewers on average, with a peak audience of 5.95 and a 27% audience share. Episodes of this series achieved higher ratings than the 2005 UEFA Cup Final and the film Pearl Harbor. Series Three, airing on the "more mainstream" BBC One, attracted 6.8 million viewers at its peak, with a 27% audience share. This series managed to attract more viewers than City Lights, Grand Designs and Big Brother. Prior to the airing of the third series, Comic Relief Does The Apprentice attracted 6.72 million viewers, becoming the fifth most-watched programme on BBC One the week it aired. The fourth series opened to 6.4 million viewers, and the series peaked at 9.7 million during the last episode.
The first episode of series five of The Apprentice averaged 8.11m (33.3% share). The previous highest-rating instalment was the opening programme of series four, which achieved 6.4m (25.6%) on 26 March 2008. The Apprentice: You're Fired! garnered 3.01m (15.2%) for BBC Two in the 30 minutes from 10:00 pm.
|1||7||12||17 July 2011||10.24 million|
|2||5||11||3 June 2009||9.76 million|
|3||7||11||13 July 2011||9.73 million|
|4||7||10||6 July 2011||9.42 million|
|5||5||12||7 June 2009||9.31 million|
|6||4||12||11 June 2008||9.29 million|
|7||7||9||29 June 2011||8.98 million|
|8||5||9||20 May 2009||8.90 million|
|9||7||1||10 May 2011||8.79 million|
|10||7||8||22 June 2011||8.77 million|
The Apprentice won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) for "Best Feature" during the 2006 awards, beating Top Gear, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Dragons' Den. It was also nominated for a BAFTA for "Best Feature" at the 2007 awards, but was beaten by The Choir.
Other awards that the programme has won include:
The show has been imitated in the ITV programme Harry Hill's TV Burp. It was also mocked in the BBC impression programme Dead Ringers, in which Sir Alan Sugar turns fired contestants into frogs and the candidates are portrayed as failed applicants of Strictly Come Dancing and Big Brother who are seeking their 15 minutes of fame.
Rory Bremner did an impression of Sir Alan on the show Bremner Bird and Fortune; he was in the boardroom with the main London Mayoral candidates, Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick, and after each of the candidates failed to get a single vote according to his results, he hired himself for the job claiming he "would make a profit on City Hall". In Dead Ringers Bremner also impersonated a Sir Alan with magic powers castigating a contestant over an event akin to what occurred to The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
In early 2007, the show was mocked in the television programme Kombat Opera Presents The Applicants. The series has been lampooned on the Boleg Bros website, where it is shot in Lego. Paul Merton and Ian Hislop also parodied the show during a promotional advert for the 2007 and 2008 series of Have I Got News for You.
In June 2007, shortly after the conclusion of Series Three of The Apprentice, rival UK channel ITV began airing Tycoon, described in The Times as "a shameless rip-off of The Apprentice". Mark Thompson, The BBC's director general, accused ITV of "copycatting" and said that Tycoon was "very like The Apprentice, and there's possibly a bit of Dragons' Den in there". The series followed Dragons' Den star Peter Jones' search for a new business tycoon. It proved relatively unsuccessful and was removed from a prime time slot on Tuesdays after achieving fewer than 2 million viewers, over 2.5 million below the channel's average. The final episode attracted just 1.3 million viewers. The programme's winner, Iain Morgan, won a prize of over £200,000.
In the fourth series of Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, Brooker parodied The Apprentice, with Brooker taking on the role of a Sugar-like character dressed in a crown and gown, and replacing the catchphrase, "You're fired" with "You're fucked."
The children's comedy sketch show "Horrible Histories" features "Historical Apprentice" as a recurring sketch. This directly references "The Apprentice" and Lord Sugar, and features two different teams from different historical periods.
Series have expanded outside television with a number of University student groups recreating local competitions by sticking to the format of tasks. What is known as Student Apprentice competitions have been hosted across the country in a number of Universities, especially in London. Events became so popular competitions joined as Regional Student Apprentice in London and other regions in UK. In 2013, these were joined to form National Student Apprentice, which became a competition bringing together six regions for a national event.
On 10 February 2005, Sir Alan Sugar released a book to coincide with the first series, called The Apprentice: How to Get Hired Not Fired. On 16 February 2006, the book was revised with additional information relating to the second series. An official magazine was first released on 23 May 2007. It includes items about business, interviews with candidates from the programme and other Apprentice-related features.
The Apprentice has included various pieces of classical and popular music throughout. Numerous pieces from film soundtracks are used as well as music featured in the BBC TV series Doctor Who. Examples of the music used include the opening theme ("Dance of the Knights" from Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev) and "The Boardroom", "You're Fired" and "Closing Credits" from The Apprentice (Original Theme) by Dru Masters. An official soundtrack was released on 4 June 2007. At the beginning of the first episode of Series 6, the iconic string phrase from the first movement of Gustav Mahler's Sixth Symphony can be heard in, one might surmise, a numerological nod. Further episodes in Series 6, include an extract from a piece by the French composer and pianist, Erik Satie, (from his "Gymnopédies No 1"), music from the Disney-Pixar 2009 film, Up, composed by Michael Giacchino, and a famous extract from Benjamin Britten's opera, Peter Grimes. A number of episodes also featured brief snippets of several tracks from The Sims series of games, such as the neighbourhood theme from The Sims 3, was briefly used in the last episode of series 6 and one of the build tracks from Makin' Magic was used in Series 7 episode 8.
In 2009, a DVD called "The Apprentice: The Best of Series 1–4" was released.
In November 2010, the BBC made the first two series of The Apprentice available to stream via the BBC's YouTube channel. It is unknown whether any future series will be released.