First Look: The Young Apprentice

YOUNG APPRENTICE: Monday 24th October, BBC1, 9pm

The Apprentice is a controversial show in my flat. I can imagine nothing more entertaining than a group of outrageously self-assured suits throwing self-respect to the wind while launching, as they invariably do, from one business blunder to the next. Meanwhile my boyfriend sits motionless, contorted by cringe and dumbfounded at the candidates’ willingness to regress to an apparently teenage state of adoration for Alan Sugar, sorry, Lord Alan Sugar. But honestly, what’s not to love?

Imagine, if you will, my genuine delight at being invited to the opening of the second series of the Young Apprentice. This spin-off show features twelve genuine teenagers (complete with ill-fitting suits) who embark on a shameless campaign to win the affections of Lord Sugar complete with access to a hefty business fund of 25 grand. As with the original format, there is the same combination of astounding self-regard, catastrophic teamwork and boardroom bitchiness which makes for such addictive viewing. But those up-turned, spotty little faces seem to melt the ice packed around the ageing mogul’s heart and all in all it makes for big shiny bars of TV gold.

At the press screening, Lord Sugar sat nodding at his own pearls of wisdom gleaned from his long hard degree at the University of Life. All of which were delivered in his unmistakeable ‘EastEnd boy done good’ style: “You are young, don’t try and pretend like you know it all because believe me it will be embarrassing.â€? Surely not more embarrassing than your puns? Straight off the mark he’s warning the teams that they will soon find out he’s no “Mister Softeeâ€? as they embark on a task to develop and sell three types of ice cream. Good one Uncle Alan.

Getting down to business, initial team discussions in the girls’ camp saw one mouthy member quickly silenced after she enthusiastically suggested calling their group “Sixth Senseâ€?. Isn’t that film about dead people? The boys go on to create an apple and watermelon flavour frozen yoghurt after dismissing honey as “only for toastâ€?. Later the girls struggled to perform some basic maths when working out their ice cream recipe, a fact which was met by much disappointed gurning from aide, Nick Hewar. So far, so dim-wittedly hilarious.

But what is actually incredible is that, without giving too much away, both teams did alright in their first challenge. Really alright. When we asked Lord Sugar whether he thought the teens were better than their middle-aged predecessors he immediately assumed the guise of a proud father on parents’ evening: “I think if you watch the series roll out you will answer your own question. It really is frightening, in some instances, how good they are.â€? It may be a bit too early to get too enthusiastic about their ability but there have been far more tantrums from the thirty-somethings in years gone by.

True to female form, the girls worked far more efficiently as a decision-making unit while the boys squabbled like territorial tabby cats over the flavours of ice cream, name of the group etc…probably throwing in argument that black was white for good measure.

There is one particularly cocksure young Irishman who is lining himself up for a lead role in The Apprentice’s trademark “pride before a fallâ€? set piece. This series has no shortage of almost unbearably outspoken wannabes primed and ready for a good ego-bashing. But I could say that with a little more conviction if this was a normal Apprentice run.

Watching these teary-eyed little bundles lumber in to see Lord Sugar, complete with dad’s jacket and a protruding bottom lip, does cause one to hesitate before revelling in the usual boardroom bloodbath. In these times of equal opps, the women should certainly not be spared but what of the children?

According to one of the budding businessman, “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but neither does povertyâ€?. Have they never tried Frosty Jacks? Aged 16, should they really be so concerned with profit margins and balance sheets? Do these kids not want to dye their hair purple and spew up all over their parents’ best carpet?

Evidently not. “They’re tough kids. These are good, smart kids and part of the process is finding kids who can take the pressureâ€?, says Alan. Rather them than me.

In its 9pm slot on BBC One, the show is definitely aimed at an adult audience. The demanding challenges and capable young candidates, all of whom own their own small businesses, promise to provide some serious entertainment value and will certainly rival the middle-aged mayhem.

The dreaded firing finger has already been thrust in one hopeful’s fresh little face and there is sure to be far more heartbreak to come. Can’t wait.

Meet this year’s Young Apprentice candidates..