The Apprentice, first episode: 18 wallies do ‘Bargain Hunt’

18 wallies do Bargain Hunt

18 wallies do Bargain Hunt

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Thirty six seconds. That’s how long it took before someone made a ludicrous claim about their own abilities in this, the 12th series of The Apprentice.

“I’m an emperor, a true leader of men,” said Karthik. “A country is not enough, a continent is not enough. I’m after the world.” For now, though, a 1 in 18 chance of winning a waning reality television show will do.

Karthik, or “The Big K, to friends and fans”, has already marked his card as one of this series’ stand-out wallies. Jessica, an excitable digital marketing bod/clothes designer who describes herself as a “female Jim Carrey” – ie something the world definitely doesn’t need – is the other. There’s also someone in a bowtie – Mukai – and an art director called Dillon St Paul. Neither have said anything yet but are worth keeping an eye on, for obvious reasons.

The big move from Wednesday to Thursday nights aside, there are no format ructions here. There are 18 contestants, which sounds an awful lot, but it’s just a means to multiple firings over 12 episodes. Once again, they’re staying in a luxury London mansion which has them sleeping six single beds to a room. Cue montage and wows.

Lord Sugar is back with his Rolls and his empire “worth over a billion pounds”, “laying on” things as he likes to do – in this case, a garage full of antiques and the worst winners’ treat in the history of The Apprentice. Back, too, are the scripted one-liners in the boardroom – “If you want to moan, you can send me an email to Lord Sugar at I don’t care dot com” – and Claude and Karen. The latter telling Jessica to “take a breath” in the manner of Lady Macbeth was an early highlight.

So it’s the same old tut, as Lord Sugar might say, and I still like it. Especially the bit where they choose the team names. The men dismissed Alpha, Upper Echelon and Assassin for being “a bit butch” before plumping for Titans, which is totally metrosexual. The women settled in an ironically no-nonsense way for “Nebula”. “Might as well have called yourself smog,” said Lord Sugar, which was quite funny, actually.

The task was to sort and sell and lock-up full of antiques – some to trade, the rest at market. In other words, Bargain Hunt. No-one knew anything about antiques obviously, but Lord Sugar had “laid on” some experts, that were roundly ignored. As tasks go, it was quite boring, except the bit where the women turned up to sell to a dealer without any of their items, which were in a van halfway to Camden.

In terms of early favourites, Sofiane marked himself out as handy seller which Lord Sugar always likes. And Courtney became my number one simply for saying, “It seemed like it would be our crown in the jewel” in the boardroom.

In the end, Michelle’s gut let her down (has anyone ever said “Thank you very much for the opportunity” so sarkily?) and she was fired. Paul won despite his only real qualification being that he “spent quite a bit of time watching Bargain Hunt”. Well, we’ve all spent quite a bit of time watching The Apprentice, Paul, but that doesn’t make us any good at business. When will they learn?