The Apprentice review: BBC ‘reality’ show is increasingly unmoored from reality

The Apprentice returned with the usual cringe-worthy banter, pencil skirts and boardroom sniping - but then would we expect anything else?

<p>The Apprentice candidates had to be tourist guides in Antigua (Image: BBC)</p>

The Apprentice candidates had to be tourist guides in Antigua (Image: BBC)

Last night saw the seventeenth - yes, seventeenth - season of The Apprentice begin on the BBC. And there were all the usual ingredients.

Lord Sugar’s light-hearted bullying and bad jokes were back in full effect. Sitting alongside him, Claude Littner and Karren Brady displaying the warmth of gargoyles. The attention-hungry candidates, clownishly honking at each other, falling over and pretending they haven’t.

While it claims to reflect the real business world, it’s increasingly cartoonish and unmoored from any kind of reality, let alone the pragmatic world of business.

Who wears suits, dresses and high heels to work anymore, let alone on a beach in Antigua? This is a nation where fleecy onesies have become normal work attire and where ties and jackets seem as antiquated as a bowler hat.

The Apprentice men in their standard issue suits (Image: BBC)

Lord Sugar’s on-screen jesting may ramp up some TV dramatic tension, but in real life most HR departments would have their heads in their hands, exhausted as yet another claim for constructive dismissal lands in their inbox.

There is one thing though where The Apprentice has been curiously ahead of its time. We used to laugh at the way the candidates talked to their phones through the external microphone rather than the earpiece. Now we all do it.

Will this series throw up any surprises? Let’s not hold our breath. Although for viewers watching on a cold January evening, the Antigua sunshine was much appreciated.

As always, there’s some interesting characters, particularly Marnie Swindells, the boxer and court advocate, Reece Donnelly, the charming theatrical and Gregory Ebbs, the cannon boffin.

They’ll be creating bao buns next week - of course they will - and predictable as it will be, it will be good fun. As long as you don’t take it too seriously.