The Apprentice (UK)

The Apprentice (UK) (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

The Apprentice is a British reality television series in which a group of aspiring young businessmen and women compete for the chance to become an "apprentice" to British business magnate Sir Alan Sugar, with the winner given a 100,000-a-year job working for his electronics manufacturing company Amstrad. The Apprentice is modelled on the US series of the same name, which stars entrepreneur Donald Trump.

The first series aired in 2005 and ran for twelve episodes, and a second series commenced in February 2006. A third series began on BBC One in March 2007. Two more series have been confirmed by BBC One.


Unlike most reality television programmes, The Apprentice is pre-recorded; typically the series is shot during the autumn for transmission the following year. Open auditions and interviews are held across the country before a series begins. These attract thousands of applicants, from which the candidates are chosen. Series One and Two featured 14 candidates, and this has been increased to 16 for Series Three.

The successful candidates are split into two teams: initially men versus women. The teams are then given a series of business-themed tasks designed to test their skills in selling, negotiation, requisitioning, leadership, teamwork and organisation – each task being covered by a single episode. At the start of each episode, the teams each choose a project manager to act for the duration of the task. (In later episodes the project managers are sometimes nominated by Sir Alan.) The teams are followed in the execution of their tasks by Sir Alan Sugar's advisers Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford. After completion of a task, the teams report back to the "boardroom", a studio mockup of a real company boardroom. Here Sugar, with the help of his advisers, reveals the results and examines the teams' performance, exposing flaws in the candidates' strategies and personalities.

The losing team (usually the one that makes the least profit) is then subjected to a detailed dressing down by Sugar. The team's project manager is required to choose two poorly-performing team members to accompany him or her into a further round of interrogation by Sugar. The discussions often become acrimonious, as each candidate tries to blame the others for the team's defeat. Finally, Sugar tells one of the three: "You're fired!", and that candidate is eliminated from the competition. In exceptional circumstances two candidates may be fired in a single episode.

As candidate numbers are whittled down the composition of the teams is periodically rearranged, both to even up the team numbers and to unsettle the candidates. When only four candidates remain (or five in Series Three), they undergo individual interviews, resulting in the selection of two finalists. These two proceed to the Grand Finale, after which one is told: "You're hired!", and wins the high-paid executive job working with Sugar.

For the duration of the competition the candidates live together in a large rented house. Due to the 12-week broadcast schedule, the audience is given the impression that the candidates stay for 12 weeks in the house and that there are breaks between tasks. However, the filming schedule means that the tasks are generally performed one after the other.


News of a UK version of The Apprentice surfaced in early 2004, a year before the programme started airing. In March 2004, FremantleMedia confirmed that a British version was "imminent". Both BBC Two and Channel 4 placed bids for the show's rights, with the former eventually winning. On May 18 2004, Alan Sugar was confirmed as the star of the new series. He said he was "delighted" to take part in the programme.

The first series of the programme started with low ratings, but ended on a high, with almost 4 million viewers tuning in to see London Underground employee Tim Campbell win on May 4 2005. The following day, the BBC confirmed that a second series would air in early 2006 and, despite initial doubts, Alan Sugar's involvement was confirmed soon after.

The second series saw the introduction of a new spin-off programme on BBC Three, in the same vein as Big Brother's Little Brother and Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, called The Apprentice: You're Fired!, hosted by Adrian Chiles..

The second series finished with a record 5.7 million viewers tuning in to see Michelle Dewberry triumph over Ruth Badger to win the job with Sir Alan Sugar. When a third series was announced, it was revealed that it would air on BBC One, which is aimed at a more "mainstream audience", and that The Apprentice: You're Fired! would re-locate from BBC Three to BBC Two. The third series started with high ratings of 4.5 million, and has achieved even higher since. A magazine to accompany the series is due for release on May 23 2007.

The Board

Along with "the boss", Sir Alan Sugar, two advisors follow the contestants during their weekly activities: Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford. These three constitute "The Board" – the panel that evaluates the teams' performance.

Alan Sugar

See Alan Sugar for more information Sir Alan Sugar is an English businessman and the founder of electronics company Amstrad. He has an estimated fortune of 830m and was ranked 84th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2007. Sugar was knighted in 2000 for services to business and holds two honorary Doctorates of Science degrees, awarded in 1988 by City University and in 2005 by Brunel University. He is a donor to the British Labour Party and a philanthropist for charities such as Jewish Care and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Nick Hewer

See Nick Hewer for more information Nick Hewer is a former public relations officer. His involvement with Sir Alan began when his company was chosen to represent Amstrad in 1983. Nick's role was as a PR manager, working with the media and press. He also became an integral part of Amstrad's corporate management. He lives in France with his partner.

Margaret Mountford

See Margaret Mountford for more information Margaret Mountford has worked with Sugar as one of his main advisers for 20 years, and is a non-executive director of Amstrad PLC. She has many years' corporate law experience as a partner in the law firm Herbert Smith, where she met Sugar when working on Amstrad's flotation. She retired from the firm in March 1999, and was appointed to the Amstrad Board on 22 September 1999. She is also a non-executive Director at Georgica PLC.

Filming locations

The tasks are mostly filmed in and around the London area. The team house was originally located in Hampstead Heath, but moved to Notting Hill for the third series.

The Apprentice regularly features clips of aerial footage over the skyscrapers of the Square Mile and Canary Wharf financial districts, such as the 180 metre Gherkin, HSBC Tower, One Canada Square and the Citigroup Centre. However, Amstrad does not have offices in either locale. The company's real location, in Brentwood, Essex is only mentioned a few times in passing in series one.

The "boardroom" (and the reception area outside) is in fact a custom-built set in a West London television studio, and the boardroom receptionist ("Jenny", or in series three, "Frances") is an actress, not Sir Alan's real secretary.

The candidates' "walk of shame" exit sequences are actually filmed at the beginning of the series, at the same time as the scene in which they are shown entering the Amstrad building at the start of the first episode. This explains why the clothes worn by fired candidates in their exit sequences sometimes differ from those worn in the boardroom scene ostensibly filmed only moments earlier. In more noticeable cases, hairstyles have also been different. The post-firing taxi ride merely takes the candidate around the block to allow their taxi interview to be filmed. They are then taken to a local hotel to stay the night and finally leave after packing their belongings from the house.


Series One

See The Apprentice (UK Series One) for more information The first series of the UK version of The Apprentice began on 16 February, 2005 and lasted for twelve episodes. The winner was Timothy Campbell, who had previously worked as a Senior Planner within the Marketing and Planning Department of London Underground. After his victory he went on to become Project Director of Amstrad's new Health and Beauty division, but has subsequently left the company to pursue other interests.

Series Two

See The Apprentice (UK Series Two) for more information The second series of The Apprentice began on 22 February, 2006. The winner was Michelle Dewberry, who briefly took up a post under Sir Alan but left in September 2006 after a series of personal problems.

Series Three

See The Apprentice (UK Series Three) for more information The third series of The Apprentice began on 28 March, 2007, and was the first series to be shown on BBC One. Unlike previous series, there were 16 candidates (rather than 14) and two candidates were fired in the second episode. This series attracted 10,000 applicants and promised "tougher tasks and better people" than before as Sir Alan Sugar believed that the show was morphing into "Big Brother".

Future series

A fourth and fifth series were commissioned by the BBC in May 2007. The official website currently invites prospective candidates to apply for the fourth series of the programme. Auditions and interviews are due to take place during the first two weeks of July 2007 in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol.

Related programmes

Comic Relief Does The Apprentice

See Comic Relief Does The Apprentice for more information A two-part special celebrity version of The Apprentice aired in March 2007 in aid of Comic Relief. Five male and five female celebrities took part in the programme which only featured one task. Viewers were able to see Piers Morgan get fired by Sir Alan Sugar during the Red Nose Day telethon.

The Apprentice: You're Fired!

See The Apprentice: You're Fired! for more information This 30-minute programme is broadcast on BBC Two immediately following an airing of The Apprentice. It is hosted by Adrian Chiles and features guests who informally interview the most recently fired candidate and analyse their performance. It has been running since the second series of The Apprentice and originally aired on BBC Three. The series is recorded in Riverside Studios.

The Apprentice: Beyond the Boardroom

This was a one-off special shown on BBC Two on June 2, 2007. The programme featured interviews with the final five candidates from series three and their family and friends. Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford also gave their opinions on the final five, along with some of the previously fired candidates.

The Apprentice: Why I Fired Them

This one-off special was screened on BBC Two on June 10, 2007, three days before the revelation of the winner of The Apprentice Series 3. In the programme Sir Alan Sugar looked back over the series so far, discussed the merits and demerits of the candidates, and explained in more detail why he fired each candidate when he did.

Rumoured programmes

On the final day of May 2006, Delia Smith was rumoured to be starring in a spin-off programme in the vein of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, but this never came about.

During the third series of the programme's run, reports emerged that a football version of the programme was being considered, to be called The Apprentice Coach. It was suggested that Sir Alan Sugar might star in this show too, with reference to his days as chairman of Tottenham Hotspur F.C.


The programme has been given positive reviews by several newspapers. In the popular press, The Sun newspaper has called it "The thinking man's reality show", and The Mirror described it as "jaw-dropping viewing". Broadsheet newspapers have given the programme a similarly positive reception, with The Daily Telegraph calling it "The most addictive show in years", and The Guardian saying that it provided "A salutary lesson in aggressive buying and selling, hiring and firing". The The Sunday Times said that it was "not just a game show: it's a business school." The Evening Standard was also favourable, describing the programme as "terribly compelling".

Criticism and controversy

The programme has been criticised in the British media for suggesting that success in the business world requires possession of unsavoury qualities. Terence Blacker of The Independent newspaper, for example, said that he believed that the programme falsely linked success with being "nasty, disloyal, greedy and selfish". Talk show host Michael Parkinson has also expressed misgivings about the programme, describing it as being "full of vulgar, loud people who, for all the wrong reasons, are dobbing each other in".

The premise of the show itself has been called into question by some members of the business world. Steve Carter, the head of recruitment firm Nigel Lynn, described the "brutality" of the recruitment process as being unrealistic. In response to these criticisms, however, a spokesperson for The Apprentice has been quoted as saying "The show isn't designed as a tool for recruiters... but it does highlight and thoroughly test key business skills such as leadership, teamwork, dedication and strategic thinking "? integral skills most recruiters are looking for".

Former contestant and runner-up Saira Khan has criticised the programme because the final two candidates both work with Sir Alan Sugar for a few months before he decides whom he will hire. Khan claims that "(Sir Alan Sugar's) final decision is not based on the programme that people see, his final decision is based on these two people who have been working with him for the six months." Khan also claims that the show is more concerned with giving viewers a rags-to-riches ending than employing the more able candidate, and that the show promotes bullying in the workplace.

Media Watch has voiced concerns over inclusion of company names and products in the programme, accusing the producers of breaking BBC policy. However, Talkback Thames has denied any allegation of product placement.

Viewing figures

The Apprentice has received high rating figures in its run, as the following table shows.

Series Average viewers
Peak viewers
Audience share
One 2.5 3.8 11%
Two 4.4 5.95 27%


The Apprentice won the BAFTA for "Best Feature" during the 2006 awards, beating Top Gear, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Dragons' Den. It was also nominated for a BAFTA for "Best Feature" at the 2007 awards, but was beaten by The Choir.

Other awards that the programme has won include:

  • 2007 Royal Television Society (RTS) Award " Features & Factual Entertainment
  • 2007 Broadcast Award " Best Entertainment Programme
  • 2006 BAFTA " Pioneer Award (voted for by the public)
  • 2006 National Television Award " Most Popular Reality Programme
  • 2006 Rose d'Or " Reality Show
  • 2006 Televisual Bulldog Awards " Best Factual Reality Show
  • 2006 TV Quick/TV Choice Awards " Best Reality
  • 2006 The Guild of TV Cameramen Awards " Camera Team Excellence in Photography
  • 2006 Banff " Unscripted Entertainment Programme
  • 2006 Wincott Business Awards " Best TV Show of the Year
  • 2005 National Television Award " Most Popular Reality Show
  • 2005 RTS Craft & Design Award " Tape & Film Editing
  • 2005 RTS Craft & Design Award " Tape & Film Editing, Entertainment & Situation Comedy
  • 2005 Grierson Awards " Most Entertaining Documentary


The show has been imitated in the ITV1 programme Harry Hill's TV Burp. It was also mocked in the BBC impressionist programme Dead Ringers, in which Sir Alan Sugar turns fired contestants into frogs and the candidates are portrayed as failed applicants of Strictly Come Dancing and Big Brother who are seeking their 15 minutes of fame.

In early 2007, the show was mocked in the television programme Kombat Opera Presents The Applicants.

The series has been lampooned on the Boleg Bros website, where it is shot in Lego. Paul Merton and Ian Hislop also mocked the show during a promotional advert for the 2007 series of Have I Got News For You.



On February 10, 2005, Sir Alan Sugar released a book to coincide with the first series, called The Apprentice: How to Get Hired Not Fired. On February 16, 2006, the book was revised with additional information relating to the second series.


The Apprentice has included various pieces of classical and popular music throughout. Numerous pieces from film soundtracks are also used. Examples of the music used include:

  • Opening theme: "Dance of the Knights" from Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev
  • The Boardroom, You're Fired and Closing Credits " "The Apprentice (Original Theme)" by Dru Masters
  • Interlude pieces consist of music from the soundtrack to The Insider by Lisa Gerrand and Pieter Bourke
  • Series 2 used instrumental pieces from the soundtrack to Amelie by Yann Tiersen.
  • The soundtrack includes the track 'Mr. Eddy's Theme' composed by Barry Adamson and originally used for the 1997 David Lynch film Lost Highway (the track was originally used to represent the somewhat psychotic and imposing character of 'Mr Eddy'). During ?The Apprentice' the theme is incorporated in cuts prior to Alan Sugar's grilling of the apprentices on the losing team and the subsequent candidate who is then to be fired.
An official soundtrack is due for release on 11 June, 2007.

DVD releases

Despite internet petitions on web forums, the BBC has announced that it has no plans to release the programmes on DVD.

General Licenced Products

A board game of show is available.

Online store Getting Personal is the official retailer of general The Apprentice merchandise.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.It uses material from the Wikipedia article "The Apprentice (UK)". Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions this article may contain.

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