Two years ago, readership of my blog increased by a factor of twenty as I charted the highs and lows of a remarkable group of Apprentice candidates. Very quickly, it seemed to me that writing a weekly (sometimes twice a week) analysis was both fun and commercially valuable.
So I repeated it with the next Young Apprentice series, and then again, the following year with The Apprentice 2012. Rebuilding my website last summer, I made an ï¿½Apprentice Pageï¿½ a part of my design specification.ï¿½ That seems a long time ago.
Watching the first couple of episodes of last autumnï¿½s Young Apprentice 2012, I realised something had changed.ï¿½ Or my attitude had.ï¿½ I stopped after only two blogsï¿½ and with no explanation: I am sorry.ï¿½ This year, whilst I watched the first couple of episodes, I had already decided not to bother with a regular blog, and I have made no efforts to catch up with episodes I have missed.
Why the Change?
Firstly, I donï¿½t blame the candidates. They may look like a bunch of cardboard clichï¿½s fabricated at Jim Hensonï¿½s Muppet workshop, but I doubt it is entirely (probably not even largely) their fault. They are selected and the clips are chosen to make them look that way.ï¿½ I blame the production company and possibly the commissioning editors at the BBC.ï¿½ They give us the programme they think we want to see.
It is not the programme I want to see.ï¿½ I donï¿½t want to see:
- Evidence that none of four adults can accurately carry out multiplication and division
- Examples of crass insensitivity and dis-respect
- Bickering, fighting, blaming and excuses
(I was going to say that I could go to my daughterï¿½s nursery for that, but the truth is that it is far too well run by the professional nursery team!)
- Success as a result of othersï¿½ failures or, worse, of putting others down
- Constant focus on weaknesses and failings
Yet that is what the programme makers offer us.ï¿½ They may think it makes good television, but I now find I prefer the relatively genteel and anodyne MasterChef.ï¿½ Over the last four series since I started watching MasterChef, we have seen:
- Astonishing examples of excellence lauded appropriately
- Winners who won by being even better than the excellent runners up who drove them to excel and succeeded on their own merits rather than on the failings of others
- Judges who look for and celebrate success and achievement
- ï¿½ and who are genuinely upset by contestantsï¿½ setbacks
- Judges expecting the best from everyone and pushing contestants to do their best, and offering honest and constructive feedback when they donï¿½t
- Contestants who share their passion and seem to genuinely like and respect one-another
- A process that shows real and rapid progression of learning and skills
- Losers who have won the respect of judges and audiences for their own outstanding performances
A MasterChef blog?
I doubt it. I believe I am qualified to draw business and management lessons from a well-structured business competition, but I am in no way competent to judge, publicly, the choices and performance of people whose abilities start well above my own, and progress rapidly to a very different scale of capability.
A Plea to Lord Sugarï¿½s Producers
If The Apprentice is to be worth watching for people like me (and I fully accept I may no longer be your target audience), please stop and learn some lessons from MasterChef.ï¿½ Make your show more about admirable qualities and staggering performance, and less about weakness, humiliation and the worst of train-wreck telly. You donï¿½t need that to create drama, tension and human stories; MasterChef shows us that.ï¿½ You will, indeed, lose some of your viewers, but you will also gain many too.
You stand to gain a grateful audience of people like me, who want to admire talented young will-be entrepreneurs, rather than sneer at miserable wannabees.