Steve Braunias: The Apprentice Episode 1 review – Killer sharks and sacrificial lambs


One of the chief attractions of reality series The Apprentice – there aren’t many but the lesson of business is that you have to take what you can get – is that it’s a return to simpler values. It has the warm glow of an old-timey way of life. It revisits the concept that greed is really, really good.

We live in an age where kindness is valued and educators try to tell children that sport isn’t about winning or losing. The Apprentice turns the clock back to the 1980s when success was best measured by how many people you stabbed in the back to get to the top. The opening episode on Monday night concluded with a frenzy of stabbing and it made for tremendous entertainment.

Mike Pero sits in the boss’s chair. He presents himself as an avatar of wealth creation. Twelve quite boring contestants bowed before him on Monday night and said they wanted to be just like him.

There were 11 contestants after Pero delivered the famous line that still manages to shock: “You’re fired!” HR weren’t consulted; employment lawyers or union representatives didn’t get the call; once again, The Apprentice enjoyed the freedoms of the bad old days, when dog could eat dog and spit out the bones.

The contestants are set an assignment in every episode. On Monday night, they had to make, package, and sell a brand of popcorn.

The male team was led by Michael, an auctioneer who didn’t shut up for a minute. He viewed language as a club tobeat reality to death. He said of the popcorn bag his team created: “We had a consistent colour”. But the bag was in black and white.

When he claimed the product was vegan, and a man from a supermarket pointed out that it contained honey and was therefore not, in fact, vegan, Michael countered: “That’s a moot point”. But it wasn’t moot at all.

He was instructed to choose the two least effective members of his team and sit with them in front of Pero’s firing squad. The three pleaded their case which is to say they bagged each other something wicked.

Michael said, “Don’t put your weaknesses onto me and make them my issue!” Great line! Told by one of Pero’s advisers that he had a bad habit of talking over people, he talked over her. Got to love this guy! He’s a shark, he’s a tiger – he’s also another kind of monster. With his gaslighting (“Don’t put your weaknesses onto me”) and his alternative facts (“That’s a moot point”), he’s a Trump.

Michael survived. Pero fired some guy who owned up that he was a bit useless. He was a lamb who volunteered for his own slaughter. It didn’t make a lick of sense and he only had himself to blame but the other contestants didn’t care. They’re still in the game. It’s quite good to watch.

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