Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Apprentice and the Gods

There is only one television programme that I wouldn't miss for the world and it's that time of year again when The Apprentice swings back onto our screens for a glorious ten week series. Its compulsive viewing and as moral as a Greek tragedy.

Most reality TV is anything but reality - Big Brother has always just struck me as sad, like a visit to the zoo, to watch dumb beasts out of their normal habitat caged and driven slightly mad by the boredom. The Apprentice, though, seems to transcend the illusion that we're just watching normality, and through clever editing and the slow emergence of the contestants personalities over the course of the series it grips us in a titanic struggle. Partly of course it's the pure voyeurism of watching a pack of animals rip themselves apart, but like all good drama it twists and turns as it takes the viewer on a journey through some of the most unpleasant forms of back biting, lying and desperate attention seeking imaginable.

As with all successful dramas it's mostly down to excellent casting and each of the fifteen candidates walks in dressed for battle and proudly asserting their credentials. I am Spartacus! The brilliance of the programme is to hint from the off that such posturing will inevitably lead to hubris. We could be fooled into thinking of the whole concept as a glorification of greed and money making, but in reality it as as unheroic and nuanced as any work by Sophocles, Chekhov or Shakespeare. The Apprentice is a cathartic warning from the Gods be they on Olympus, or in an Amstrad board room on the Essex border.

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