CHRISTOPHER STEVENS on TV: It's time for the Apprentices to get nasty!

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Lock up your hairspray – it’s time for the Apprentices to get nasty!

The Apprentice


Bangers And Cash


Solved! It’s always been a mystery that Alan Sugar’s acolytes are woken in the small hours by a jangling phone on The Apprentice (BBC1).

A disembodied voice warns them they have just half an hour until the cars arrive to take them to some swish London venue where the Baron’s henchmen, Karren Brady and Tim Campbell, wait with their hands clasped like pub bouncers.

Yet by that time, it’s always broad daylight. Those 30 minutes have stretched to four hours. What’s taken this bunch of over-confident office juniors so long?

The answer is make-up. As the third task of the series loomed, the cameras took an unusually close look at the contestants during their beauty routines.

This series of The Apprentice, helmed by Alan Sugar (above), is sharper and more entertaining than it has been for years

For some, it appears to be a matter not of rouge and lipstick but of full-scale prosthetics. There’s so much hairspray in confined spaces that breathing apparatus might be required. And that’s just the boys.

This series of The Apprentice, the 16th, is sharper and more entertaining than it has been for years. Gone is the flabby camaraderie of the past few seasons, replaced by an eagerness to cut each other’s throats.

Nick, this week’s winning project manager, crowed: ‘I had the vision, I didn’t really listen to anyone else.’ Loser Navid took a swipe at his team leader by seething to the cameras: ‘Sophie is just a silly girl.’

They’re all undermining their rivals without any pretence of co-operation. It’s nasty, but it’s far more fun this way. I can’t help suspecting that the producers are stoking the enmity, whispering in ears: ‘Do you know what she’s been saying about you? I don’t want to tell tales, but . . .’

Underwhelmers of the week: 

Piers Morgan’s Life Stories on ITV prided itself on A-listers from Rod Stewart to Raquel Welch. So it’s a pity to see that, as Kate Garraway takes over, guests include Charlotte Church and John Barnes. Ho-hum. 

As always, the baby business moguls are unhampered by any self-awareness. Tasked with selling a non-alcoholic drink to wine traders, Nick proposed starting his pitch by dancing onto the stage like Theresa May.

Sophie delivered her sales spiel one disjointed word at a time: ‘We. Will. Take. Each. And-ev. Ery. Oneof. You. To. Para. Dise,’ she promised, her voicebox apparently replaced by the dying computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In another small twist to a normally rigid formula, we saw the apprentices making sales pitches to individual buyers after the showpiece presentation.

The enforced layoff for this show during the pandemic has done it a power of good. A format that had become flaccid and repetitive has been tweaked, just enough to restore some life.

Now we just have to hope that no one lights a cigarette indoors. That much hairspray would go up like a gas works.

Whether a Ford Model T would run on hairspray has probably never been tested, but this pre-war mass-production model was built to use practically anything else, from kerosene to ethanol.

Derek Mathewson had a 1915 model up for sale as Bangers And Cash (Yesterday) returned. We got a quick driving lesson: starter button on the floor, a lever beside the steering wheel to regulate the spark plugs and a pedal for reverse gear where the brake is on most cars.

Each week, Derek rounds up a few cars from collectors and then, after a moment’s admiration, knocks them out at auction.

His prize this time was a white 1979 Clenet Roadster, owned by Motörhead guitarist Phil ‘Wizzo’ Campbell and designed by eccentric Frenchman Alain Clenet — or, as Derek pronounced it, Elaine Clennit.

This uncomplicated series is geared to appeal to enthusiasts like Roger, a Bangers And Cash regular, who spends his days tinkering with motorbikes in his garage. His wife Sue approves. ‘Keep ’em in overalls,’ she says, ‘and you know where they are.’

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