The Apprentice – a horror show

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The gaffer: Lord Sugar [Insert predictable joke about being fired]

If you managed to peer from behind the sofa at the spectacle that was The Apprentice (without self-harming at the thought of your profession getting dragged through shit) then you did better than most.

15 candidates with peculiar hairstyles and regional accents that infuriated even me were briefed to design a new ‘household gadget’. For anywhere particular Lord Sugar? “Anywhere, I don’t care!”.

Two days to knock up a completely new product, with a prototype, and pitch it to market. That common, everyday problem faced by product designers.
15 muppets. A hard task. Enough nonsensical sound bites to have me throwing anything within arms reach at the screen.

Cobble together some ideas, set them free across London in blacked-out people carriers to blurt out scribbled ideas to hurriedly dragged in focus groups, and then… gulp… take the concepts to real life, bona fide product designers (blink and you’ll miss them).

The boys’ product: The Eco Press, a food waste bin compressor/composter with a whiff of a cafétier about it.


The girls’ product: The Splish Splash, infant bath splash shield with all the practicality of a police riot shield standing up to a tidal wave.

Some bizarre prototypes emerged hours later as if by magic, and off they went trying to sell their gadgets to some big high street homeware chains.

It’s a horrible notion to try and condense an entire professional process using people with the personalities of used car salesmen into roughly half of a one hour TV show, but that’s what it is.

The only thing to come out of this well is Design Works, the product design agency involved in the production of the show for its seventh series, that somehow took the ropey concept scribbles and created actual products from them.

It is an entertainment show after all – there’s a contestant named ‘Ricky Martin’ for God’s sake – but with product design rarely cropping up in mainstream media it was cringe worthy to see it treated so irrelevantly and in such a watered down manner that it made a profession look like a blasé afterthought.

Feel free to watch it on the BBC iPlayer and leave your comments below.

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