The Apprentice

Yes, it's heart racing, palms sweating, get that whisky bottle out time... the new 2012 series of The Apprentice started last night and my Wednesday evenings are now booked up for the next three months.

I really hate reality shows. Cheap, grotesque TV milked for all it's worth with multiple offshoot programmes 'analysing' the contestants chances, the results etc etc. Big Brother contestants generally needed therapy before they were picked to appear. The build up for The X Factor judges is unreal. And I'm still trying to erase from memory the image of Ann Widdecombe being hauled by block and tackle around the dancefloor on Strictly Come Dancing.

So what is it about The Apprentice that grabs me so? I accept strictly speaking it is a reality show, but for once the contestants are using their natural skills for a long term purpose. They've already proposed a business opportunity attractive enough to interest Sir Alan Sugar and his £250,000 investment. Over the next few weeks each has got to try and convince him they're the one he should work with because of their innate business and entrepreneurial skills and general nous.

So the 2012 series started with the usual descriptions of the remarkable qualities of each candidate... in their own opinions of course. How about 'I truly am the reflection of perfection', or 'My personality and character is once seen never forgotten'. A bit of intimidation from Sir Alan, a rough division in teams between girls and boys and they were off on the first task, to buy blank merchandise to print on and sell.

The boy's team got off to a great start when no one wanted their neck in the noose as the first team leader. They proceeded to produce a poor product of poor quality at an extortionate price to sell to tourists. Would you buy a small canvas bag with a picture of a London bus on the front for £15?

The girls team on the other hand had a really attractive motif of animals for their children's T shirts and bibs hand drawn by one of the team. Quality was great and they were selling like hot cakes. Off went half the team to sell more at London Zoo, where they wandered round together, three of them bitching about the grabbing of sales by the fourth. Might have been a good idea to split up and quadruple sales effectiveness.

As always, the scenes in the board room were classic. Members of both teams were extremely supportive until the result was known... the boys team surprisingly trounced the girls with a profit of about £800 compared to £200. Jubilation for the boys as they headed off to get legless on art themed cocktails laid on by Sir Alan. Sudden lack of mutual support in the girls team as it dawned on them they were fighting for their lives and one of them would be sacked.

Self style 'blond assassin' Katie appeared a cert for the sack, having done nothing at all during the task and putting up a poor defence for herself. But defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory by Bilyana. She's a risk analyst in the City of London, but clearly wasn't able to assess the risk of continually taking when it was Sir Alan's turn.

As always, Sir Alan was a master at putting the contestants in their place and building the tension. Can't wait 'til next week when they've got to invent a new household gadget and pitch it to some of the UK's leading retailers.

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