Wednesday, 3 May 2006

What The Apprentice Says About The Guardian

Ah, Comment is Free what would I do without you?

Today Jonathan Freedland has an article entitled "What The Apprentice says about Blair's Britain: only profit matters", and you can see his point. Up to a point anyway. Any "reality" show (and I'm sure you don't need those scare quotes, but it's worth emphasising just how fake these programs really are) should roughly reflect the demographic it hopes to attract. They do this so that we all have someone to root for. It's almost stunningly obvious, then, that, by dint of design, it will reflect something of Britain today.

Also by design, the team that makes the most money wins. There has to be some measurement, and money is probably less arbitrary than most of the other ways that you could use determine who is winning. I'm not sure that this means that we can expand this point any further for The Apprentice than we can for, say, Bulls Eye. Freedland can insist that this makes all of Britain money grubbing scoundrels but it really doesn't hold up after a moment's thought.

Most egregious, however, is this:
A truism of our age declares that this is the era when deference has been banished, yet The Apprentice shows that's not quite right. For the contestants, even when exhausted and hurling abuse at each other, only ever refer to their taskmaster and would-be boss one way: he is Sir Alan. Never "Sugar" or even "Alan Sugar", but Sir Alan.

Again, he's gone from the particular, "Alan Sugar likes to be called Sir Alan", to the general, "We all call him Sir Alan because we all secretly love deference to titles". Quite a leap, I'm sure you'll agree.


Ten-Bob Dylan said...

The most annoying thing about it is that every one that I have seen is not just about money but specfically about 'sales.' The best 'salesman' always wins. Why would anybody want a salesman as their assistant - sorry, apprentice? I think for the first episode they should sit them all down to watch Glengarry Glenross.

Paul said...

The one problem with that is that the salesmen would watch Glengarry Glen Ross and try to pick up tips...

Another thing: I've mentioned in an earlier post that there are studies that women tend to do better in city-type jobs because they aren't quite so aggressive and don't force everything all the time. Which would suggest that The Apprentice seems to reinforce behaviour that is, if not actually harmful to, less than optimal for the company. Of course no-one wants to see a program about a bunch of people slowly developing a relationship with their customers and suppliers, narcissitic wide boys make much better TV.

Ten-Bob Dylan said...

The two finalists are ...erm women.
Ahhh, those lovely women-folk. With their penchant for all things pink and fluffy.
Oh, no.
Aggresive, forceful - 'sales' type women.
To be fair they weren't quite as thick as the men - so that might be why they are still there.

Then again, it must be hard to comment on a program that is presumably not on one of the three Austrian channels!
Speaking of which the Economist this week talks of reassessing the Austrian school of economics in relation to the US economy! Can't find it in the online version though.

Paul said...


Actually about two minutes after I posted my comment I read something that suggested Sugar was being slyly subversive in the world of reality programming by first letting a black man win and this year ensuring that a woman would win...

To be fair to myself, my original post was more a comment on the Graun's penchant for taking something from popular culture and blowing it up to make a tenuous point about society as a whole...