It’s time for the annual Apprentice appraisal. After last season’s runs where Sugar beat Trump and Stewart into submission, it looks like NBC (or at least Mark Burnett) is trying to change the US playing field changing some game rules which have always separated it from more tacky reality shows like Big Brother. Now the losing team faces the winning project manager in the board room with Trump and gets to sleep outside in the garden of the mansion where the winning team sleeps. The ‘Haves’ vs the ‘Have Nots’ as Trump puts it. The naff twist as watchers of UK Big Brother season 3+ would say. The fact that Trump is now also spying on his candidates as they work rather than trusting his eyes and ears to do it is pushing it too. With Carolyn firing herself and George putting himself in semi-retirement from the show, we’re stuck with Ivanka (nice to look at but perhaps lacking the gravitas of a proper judge) and the winning project manager. Apparently Donald Trump Jr will put his face in from time to time as well but the show needs a lift that simply moving to L.A. has not given it with the addition of these extra rules. (Pity that Beckham didn't move to L.A. Galaxy last summer in time for the show’s filming. MLS probably doesn’t make enough cash to qualify as a potential business to be intruded upon by the show anyway but it would have been funny to see the candidates trying to pick up Posh and Becks’s accents.)

Will this be a good season though? I’m guessing not, but am happy to be proven wrong. The staying power of the show is really in the soap-element; the personality clashes of the candidates. All but Season 2 has given us a final five or six with two sides clearly drawn, hating each other and a clear loser, but the finales of all but seasons 1 and 3 have been non-events with the conflicts ended at the interview stage. Probably the best move to spur on this element is the inclusion of the Olympian in the group - give the candidates someone to aim at once the obvious nitwits have been winnowed away. On a personal note, I miss Bren’s Yahoo Apprentice blog, the one consistently good thing about Season 4, a weekly hack and slash into the show from a candidate in Season 3.

Turning attention to this side of the pond, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen any advertising for UK Season 3 yet with it being mooted to start on Feb 21 and it being shown on BBC1 for the first time. Sir Alan was definitely better than Trump last year as were the UK candidates - the fact it won several awards as well underline that - and although he fell at the last hurdle and gave the job to totty rather than someone with two brains to rub together (c’mon you’re setting up a computer business and don’t register the domain name before you launch it? Duh!) I can’t see why this will change as long as the researchers do their jobs. Sightings around London last Autumn during filming include a challenge around London Zoo and Lloyds of London. There’s also a strange rumour doing the rounds that the winner of S3 refused the job when offered it, but as Sir Alan doesn’t actually choose a victor until the week before the final round is screened, this sounds like a case of Chinese whispers. It might indicate that during the months between filing and screening, Sir Alan offered both finalists work and one person refused but that’s just speculation on my part. Either way, I look forward to the gloss-less UK series and hope that it continues to be about the business of business rather than the glamour of it as the Trump show has become.

As a postscript, I note with raised eyebrows that Comic Relief are trying to set up a Celebrity Apprentice show for a few weeks. Wikipedia has some details here. I can only wish those Celebs luck. I imagine Sir Alan just hearing the wind whistling through their ears and it getting right up his nose.

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