The apprentice uk

For the latest series, see The Apprentice (UK series nine).

The Apprentice
The Apprentice intertitle
Genre Reality television series
Created by Mark Burnett
Starring Lord Sugar
Nick Hewer
Karren Brady (2010–)
Margaret Mountford (2004–2009)
Narrated by Mark Halliley
Theme music composer Dru Masters[1]
Opening theme Dance of the Knights
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 9
No. of episodes 96
Producer(s) Boundless (2012–)
Talkback Thames (2005–11)
Running time 60 minutes
Production companies Mark Burnett Productions
Distributor FremantleMedia
Original channel BBC One (2007–)
BBC Two (2005–6)
Picture format 1080i HDTV
Original run 16 February 2005 (2005-02-16) – present
Related shows The Apprentice (US version)
The Apprentice (Irish version)
The Apprentice: You're Fired!
Young Apprentice
External links

The Apprentice is a British reality television series in which a group of aspiring young businessmen and women compete for the chance to work with the British business magnate Lord Sugar (previously known as "Sir Alan Sugar"). In series one to six, the prize was a £100,000-a-year job as an "apprentice" to Sugar, and winners went on to work at Amstrad, an electronics manufacturing company founded by Sugar (but since sold to BSkyB),[2][3] or one of Sugar's other companies, Viglen,[4] Amsprop[5] or Amshold.[6] In series seven, the prize changed to a £250,000 investment in a business of the candidate's creation, with Lord Sugar as a 50% owner.

The Apprentice, billed as a "job interview from hell", is very similar in format to the American series of the same name, which stars entrepreneur Donald Trump.[7] Both American and British versions of The Apprentice are produced by Mark Burnett.

The first and second series aired on BBC Two in 2005 and 2006 respectively and the third series ran on BBC One in early 2007,[8] the success of which led the BBC to commission two more series.[9] The fourth series began in March 2008 and the fifth in March 2009. A sixth series ran from October to December 2010, the seventh series ran from May to July 2011, and the eighth series started airing on 21 March 2012. The ninth series began on 7 May 2013, with a tenth series commissioned for 2014.

The programme has spawned three spin-offs, The Apprentice: You're Fired! (a studio-based programme which acts as a companion to the regular series), plus celebrity versions for Comic Relief and Sport Relief.[10][11] Occasional 60-minute special episodes, often concentrating on particular candidates and their stories, also air.[12] Apprentice-related merchandising includes a magazine, podcast, and official books.[12][13][14] The programme has led other production companies to produce shows that follow a similar format, including Tycoon, Beat the Boss.[15][16] and Election. It has also been compared to another BBC series, Dragons' Den.[17]


Candidate selection

Open auditions and interviews are held across the country before a series begins,[18] attracting thousands of applicants.[19] About 75 candidates are called back for a second round in London, for assessment in groups, asked to do various exercises to test their business skills and how they work in a team. After this, between 20 to 30 candidates are assessed by a psychologist, references are taken and other checks made. It is from this group that the final line-up is chosen.[20] The first and second series featured 14 candidates, increased to 16 from the third series onwards. The fifth series was also meant to have 16 candidates, but went ahead with only 15 after a last-minute withdrawal.[21] The BBC Comedy website published a spoof video at the beginning of Series 6 revealing more about the candidate selection process.[22]


The successful candidates are split into two teams, initially by gender, and each team chooses a team name. The teams are then given a series of business-themed tasks designed to test their skills in salesmanship, negotiation, requisitioning, leadership, teamwork and organisation, with each episode covering a single task. At the start of each episode, the teams each choose a project manager to act as the team leader for the duration of the task,[23] though in later episodes the project managers are sometimes nominated by Sugar himself. The teams are followed in the execution of their tasks by Lord Sugar's advisers, Nick Hewer and Karren Brady.[24] As candidate numbers are whittled down, the composition of the teams is periodically rearranged by Sugar.

Lord Sugar's aide for the first five series, Margaret Mountford, did not appear in any series of Young Apprentice or from the sixth series onwards (apart from as an interviewer) as she had decided to continue her studies (PhD) in papyrology.[25] She was replaced on the show by Karren Brady, who had previously been an interviewer on the programme.


After completion of the task, the teams report back to the "boardroom", a studio mock-up of a real company boardroom.[26] Here Lord Sugar, with the help of his advisers, reveals the results and discusses the teams' performance, exposing flaws in the candidates' strategies and personalities. Sugar, who is introduced in the programme as "Britain's most belligerent boss",[27] frequently delivers scathing criticisms couched in colourful language ("that was a total bloody disaster" ... "you haven't got a bloody clue" ... "I'll fire the whole bloody lot of you if I have to").

The team members are usually first asked to comment on the performance of their team leader, and the team leaders are asked how their team members performed. Sugar's assistants then reveal which team has won, based on whatever criteria were used. Members of the winning team are then told by Sugar that he has laid on a special treat for them such as a dinner at a fancy restaurant or a music recital, and they leave the boardroom.

The losing team are dispatched outside and usually convene at the Bridge Café where they generally discuss their failures in the task. When they return to the boardroom they are subjected to a further detailed examination by Sugar, after which the team's project manager is required to choose two team members to accompany him or her into a final round of interrogation (except in the seventh episode of Series 4, where Sugar fired one candidate before the final boardroom, and then chose who would accompany the Project Manager into the boardroom himself).[23] These are nominally the two poorest performing members of the team, but in practice the project manager may act treacherously and seek to remove more able members of the competition, or make choices based on personality. The discussions often become acrimonious as each candidate tries to divert blame towards the others. Finally, Lord Sugar dismisses one of the three with the catchphrase, "You're fired!", and that candidate is eliminated from the competition.[23] On four occasions, two candidates have been fired in a single episode.[28]

The fired candidate is then shown being despatched into a waiting taxi for the 'journey home'.

The fired candidate is then briefly interviewed in the taxi to reflect on his or her rejection from the competition. The surviving candidates are sent back to the accommodation that is provided for the duration of the show.

Interviews and Final

When only four candidates remain (or five in some series), they undergo individual interviews with trusted aides of Lord Sugar, including Claude Littner, resulting in the selection of two finalists.[29] In the original format, these two proceed to the Final and perform one last task with teams chosen from the previously fired contestants, after which one is told, "You're hired!", and wins the highly paid executive job working with Lord Sugar.[23] The person to be hired is not always the person who won the final task, as the decision is based on all the tasks.

In fact, two versions of the final boardroom sequence are filmed—showing each of the finalists winning. Between filming and transmission—a period of about six months—both finalists work for Lord Sugar in temporary jobs. Lord Sugar does not reveal his decision about who he is going to hire until shortly before transmission, and this determines which ending is shown. The BBC has issued contradictory statements about the decision procedure. The first version of events is that Lord Sugar makes his decision on the day that the final boardroom sequence is filmed, based on the contestants' performance in the final task, and keeps it secret until just before transmission.[30] The second version is that Lord Sugar decides after the six-month trial period.[31] Former contestant Saira Khan also stated that "His 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."[32]

Owing to the change in the prize from series seven, series seven and eight moved the "interview" round to the final; the penultimate week instead utilises a task similar to the previous final episodes, but with five candidates still in the process and no returning contestants.[33] In the ninth series, the interviews round will be moved back to the penultimate episode. Young Apprentice did not include an interview week, and continued to feature returning candidates in the final task.

In Series 4 of the main programme, and Series 1 and 3 of Young Apprentice, the format for the final was slightly different: instead of two, there were four contestants in the final, with each team having two joint project managers. At the end, the project managers of the losing team were automatically fired, leaving Sugar to choose which of the remaining two contestants can win.

The interviewers are:


Unlike most reality television programmes, the whole of The Apprentice is pre-recorded; typically the series is shot during the autumn for transmission the following year. The candidates live together in a large rented house or apartment for the duration of the competition.[34] Owing to the twelve-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. The series is actually filmed in about two months,[31] and the filming schedule means that the tasks are generally performed one after the other.[35]

Compared to the US series, the British version has a more rigid format that requires twelve episodes per series and at least four candidates for the final round of interviews. This meant that in the first two series multiple firings were not allowed at all (which was acknowledged in the second series when Lord Sugar expressed his desire to fire both Alexa Tilley and Syed Ahmed, but could only get rid of the former), and subsequent series allow Lord Sugar to conduct either two double firings or one treble firing, the latter of which has occurred in the interview weeks, albeit not yet in the regular tasks on the main programme. The highest number of candidates fired in one episode is four, which happened in the penultimate episode of the second series of Young Apprentice; at the start of the task there were six candidates remaining, but Lord Sugar informed them that only two would proceed to the final, as the entire losing team and one member of the winning team would be fired.


The Apprentice
The Board

Lord Sugar (series 1-)
Nick Hewer (series 1-)
Margaret Mountford (series 1–5)
Karren Brady (series 6-)

Series One

Hired: Tim Campbell

Runner-up: Saira Khan

Other candidates: Paul, James, Miriam, Raj, Ben, Sebastian, Rachel, Matthew, Adele, Miranda, Lindsay, Adenike

Series Two

Hired: Michelle Dewberry

Runner-up: Ruth Badger

Other candidates: Ansell, Paul, Syed Ahmed, Tuan, Sharon, Samuel, Jo, Mani, Alexa, Karen, Nargis, Ben

Series Three

Hired: Simon Ambrose

Runner-up: Kristina Grimes

Other candidates: Katie, Tre, Lohit, Naomi, Jadine, Ghazal, Adam, Paul, Natalie, Sophie, Gerri, Rory, Ifti, Andy

Series Four

Hired: Lee McQueen

Runner-up: Claire Young

Other candidates: Helene, Alex, Lucinda, Michael, Raef, Sara, Jennifer, Jenny, Kevin, Lindi, Simon, Ian, Shazia, Nicholas

Series Five

Hired: Yasmina Siadatan

Runner-up: Kate Walsh

Other candidates: Debra, Lorraine, James, Howard, Ben, Mona, Philip, Noorul, Kimberly, Paula, Majid, Rocky, Anita, Adam

Series Six

Hired: Stella English

Runner-up: Chris Bates

Other candidates: Jamie, Joanna, Stuart, Liz, Laura, Christopher, Sandeesh, Alex, Paloma, Melissa, Shibby, Joy, Raleigh, Dan

Series Seven

Hired / Business Partner: Thomas Pellereau

Runner-up: Helen Milligan

Other Candidates: Susan, Jim, Natasha, Melody, Zoe, Leon, Glen, Edna, Vincent, Ellie, Felicity, Gavin, Alex, Edward

Series Eight

Hired / Business Partner: Ricky Martin

Runner-up: Tom Gearing

Other Candidates: Nick, Jade, Adam, Stephen, Gabrielle, Jenna, Laura, Azhar, Katie, Duane, Jane, Michael, Maria, Bilyana

Series Nine

Hired / Business Partner: Leah Totton

Runner-up: Luisa Zissman

Other candidates: Francesca, Neil, Jordan, Myles, Alex, Jason, Natalie, Kurt, Rebecca, Zeeshaan, Uzma, Sophie, Tim, Jaz

Series One

Rumours of a UK version of The Apprentice were confirmed in early 2004 by FremantleMedia.[36] Both BBC Two and Channel 4 bid for the show's rights[37] – the BBC was eventually successful.[38] On 18 May 2004, Sir Alan Sugar was confirmed as the star of the new series.[38] He said he was "delighted" to take part in the programme.[7] Reportedly, the BBC's first choice was Philip Green, who was busy in early 2004 organising the takeover of Marks and Spencer.[39] Michael O'Leary, boss of Irish airline Ryanair, has also said he was approached but declined as it was "too much of a distraction".[40]

The first series began on February 2005 and lasted for twelve episodes. The viewer ratings climbed[41] to almost 4 million viewers for the final episode on 4 May 2005. The winner was Tim Campbell,[42] 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.[43] He started the Bright Ideas Trust in 2008 which offers funding and support for young people wishing to start their own business.[44]

In August 2008, the American cable channel CNBC began to present the first series on Monday nights.[45] However, the programme aired in disparate time slots or not at all due to the network's abrupt shifting of their programme schedule in order to cover developments regarding the global financial crisis of 2008–2009. The series did not air in full, and eventually as CNBC decided to focus their prime time schedule on financial news programming, the programme's rights moved to BBC America, where it started transmission on 5 May 2009.

The opening theme was "Montagues and Capulets".

Series Two

The day after the conclusion of Series One, the BBC confirmed that a second series would be broadcast in early 2006 and, despite initial doubts, Sugar's involvement was confirmed soon afterwards.[46][47] The second series began on 22 February 2006 and a spin-off programme was introduced on BBC Three, called The Apprentice: You're Fired! and hosted by Adrian Chiles.[48]

The second series finished with a record 5.7 million viewers[49] tuning in to see Michelle Dewberry defeat Ruth Badger in the final.[50] Dewberry briefly took up a post under Sugar but left in September 2006 after a series of personal problems.[51]

Series Three

When a third series was announced, it was revealed that it would be shown on BBC One,[8] which is aimed at a more "mainstream audience,"[52] and that The Apprentice: You're Fired! would move from BBC Three to BBC Two.[53] The third series attracted 10,000 applicants and promised "tougher tasks and better people" — Sugar had expressed concerns that the show was becoming Big Brother.[54] Series Three ran from 28 March 2007 to 13 June 2007, starting with 4.5 million viewers,[55] with the audience increasing throughout the run to peak with 6.8 million people watching the final.[56] The series was won by Simon Ambrose, who was chosen over Kristina Grimes.[57][58] Ambrose went on to work at Sugar's property company Amsprop. Unlike previous series, there were 16 candidates (rather than 14).

Series Four

In May 2007, a fourth and fifth series were commissioned by the BBC,[9] and prospective candidates were invited to apply for the fourth series through the official website.[59] Auditions and interviews were held during the first two weeks of July 2007 in London, Manchester and Birmingham (interviews were also to have been held in Bristol but these were subsequently moved to London).[60] A record 20,000 applications were received.[61]

Series Four began airing on BBC One on 26 March 2008,[62][63] and ran for twelve weekly episodes. It debuted with 6.4 million viewers.[64] This series saw a change in the boardroom design and it was the first series where the candidates were not allowed to visit the house before the tasks commenced, instead beginning the first task immediately after the first boardroom briefing. This was subsequently the case in Series Five. The series was won by Lee McQueen, who beat Claire Young, Helene Speight and Alex Wotherspoon in the final. The final saw a new record of 8.9 million viewers, and a peak of 9.7 million viewers during the final 15 minutes.[65]

Series Five

Series Five began its run on BBC One on 25 March 2009 with 15 contestants. A sixteenth participant from Brighton Nick Carter had to pull out the day before filming began. Sir Alan commented that it was due to "family matters".[21] The Grand Finale aired on 7 June 2009, where Sir Alan hired Yasmina Siadatan over the runner up Kate Walsh.

Series Six

In May 2009, after an episode of The Apprentice: You're Fired!, it was announced that the application process had begun for a sixth UK series to be filmed in Autumn 2009. Margaret Mountford did not return for series six.[66] Karren Brady was named as Mountford's replacement on 30 August 2009.[67]

It was confirmed by the BBC that series 6 would not be shown in March 2010 (as originally scheduled), but delayed until after the general election as Sugar was the government's "business tsar".[68] Although Sugar stated that he did not view the position as partisan,[69] the running of The Apprentice during the general election could have been a "risk to impartiality".[70] The day after the results of the general election were announced, the BBC began advertising for the new series. Series six commenced on 6 October 2010.[71]

Arcadia Group director[72] Karren Brady confirmed in a newspaper interview that the contestants would no longer refer to Alan Sugar as 'Sir Alan', but instead must call him 'Lord Sugar', following his elevation to the House of Lords.[73]

Before the series aired, it was reported that contestant Christopher Farrell was on bail for fraud, had been sacked from a previous mortgage company for misconduct[74] and that in September 2009 he had admitted to two charges of possessing an offensive weapon.[75] [76] It was also reported that contestant Joanna Riley had been convicted for racially abusing three taxi drivers in October 2005 and it was also alleged that contestant Shibby Robati had received a formal warning from the General Medical Council for "unprofessional behaviour".[77][78]

The Grand Finale aired on 19 December 2010, in which Lord Sugar hired Stella English over the runner-up Chris Bates.

Series Seven

Main article: The Apprentice (UK series seven)

In April 2010, applications were made for series seven, to be aired in 2011. Lord Sugar announced a change to the prize for the 2011 series, whereby the winner would go into business with Lord Sugar as a partner, with the investment by Lord Sugar of £250,000.

The seventh series premiered on 10 May 2011.[79] The series seven candidates were revealed on 3 May 2011, via the official website and in a press launch.

The Grand Finale aired on 17 July 2011. Like series four there were four finalists, but, unlike previous series, the contest concluded with the "interviews" round, with the final head-to-head task dropped. Lord Sugar decided to make Thomas Pellereau his new business partner over runner-up Helen Milligan. He did mention that had he been hiring an employee, Milligan would have won. Susan Ma, another finalist, was praised, and Lord Sugar commented that he looked forward to becoming a partner in business with her.

Series Eight

Main article: The Apprentice (UK series eight)

On 10 March 2012, Lord Sugar confirmed that series eight would start on 21 March 2012 on BBC One.[80]

The final was aired on 3 June 2012. Like the previous series, the final round was the interviews round, and did not feature fired candidates. The series was won by Ricky Martin, with Tom Gearing as runner-up. Nick Holzherr came in third place, and Jade Nash in fourth place.[81]

Series Nine

Main article: The Apprentice (UK series nine)

The final was aired on 17 July 2013. The series was won by Leah Totton, with Luisa Zissman as runner-up. It also featured the first abdication in the history of the programme as Luisa Zissman took over from Jason Leech as project manager halfway through a task.

Criticism of process

None of the winners of the first six adult series stayed with Sugar's companies for longer than three years and two - Michelle and Yasmina - stayed only a matter of weeks. In this light The Apprentice has been criticised as "an entertainment show with no real aspect of business to it".[82] The winner of series six, Stella English described the job as a "sham",[83] but later lost a case of constructive dismissal against Lord Sugar, with the tribunal judge John Warren saying that "Ms English, instead of appreciating a job with enormous scope for advancement, had been more interested in a glamorous role, and travelling in private jets".[84] In the following series, the prize was changed from employment with Sugar to an investment.

Subsequent activity of winning candidates

Series One

The winner was Tim Campbell, who became Project Director of Amstrad's new Health and Beauty division. He has since left the company to pursue other interests.[85]

Series Two

Michelle Dewberry briefly took up a post under Sugar but left in September 2006 after a series of personal problems.[86]

Series Three

The series was won by Simon Ambrose, who went on to work at Sugar's property company Amsprop. He left in 2010.[87]

Series Four

The series was won by Lee McQueen, who initially worked for Sugar's company AMSHOLD where he famously phoned in sick on his first day.[88] He then went on to work for AMSCREEN as development director, reporting to Sir Alan's son, Simon Sugar. He left Sugar's employment in 2010.[89]

Series Five

Sugar hired Yasmina Siadatan over the runner up Kate Walsh. Weeks after taking the job she started a relationship with fellow development manager 31-year-old Andrew Hepburn and became pregnant. She went on maternity leave, then gave her notice in shortly before she was due to return, announcing she was pregnant again.[90]

Series Six

The series was won by Stella English, beating runner-up Chris Bates.[91] After winning, English worked at Sugar's company Viglen,[92] but in May 2011 she requested a new role, saying that she was just a "glorified PA".[93] After a year of employment she was told her contract would not be renewed and in February 2012 it was reported that she was suing Sugar for wrongful dismissal[94] but this action was ultimately unsuccessful.[95]

Series Seven

Series seven of the Apprentice was won by 31-year old inventor Tom Pellereau[96] with Helen Milligan coming second. Due to the new format of the winning candidate receiving a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar and a 50% partnership. Pellereau and Lord Sugar launched a range of manicure products which are currently available in Boots, Tescos and Sainsburys. The range includes a range of curved nail files, which includes the S-file, the S-Buffer and the Emergency File, two curved nail clippers, the S-Clipper and S-Clipper mini and a curved foot exfoliator, the S-Ped.[97] Despite fellow contestant Susan Ma being fired by Lord Sugar, he admitted he did like her business plan and since then he has worked with Susan in their company Tropic creating skin care products.

Series Eight

Ricky Martin won series eight, having been chosen ahead of Jade Nash, Nick Holzherr & Tom Gearing. As per series seven, the prize was partnership in business and a cash investment. On 23 October 2012 Ricky launched his joint venture recruitment company,[98] Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS) which deals with recruitment in the field of science.

The Board


     Currently stars
     Previously starred
Starring Series 1 Series 2 Series 3 Series 4 Series 5 Series 6 Series 7 Series 8 Series 9
Alan Sugar
Nick Hewer
Karren Brady
Margaret Mountford

Along with "the boss", Alan Sugar, two advisors follow the contestants during their weekly activities. In series 1–5, Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford took on these roles. Mountford resigned at the end of series 5 and was replaced by Karren Brady in series 6. Lord Sugar and his two advisors constitute "The Board"—the panel that evaluates the teams' performance.

Alan Sugar is a businessman and the founder of electronics company Amstrad. He has an estimated fortune of £770m[99] and was ranked 84th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2007.[100] Sugar was knighted in 2000 for services to business and holds two honorary Doctorate of Science degrees, awarded in 1988 by City University and in 2005 by Brunel University.[101] He is a donor to the British Labour Party[102] and has given money to charities such as Jewish Care and Great Ormond Street Hospital.[103] In July 2007, Sugar sold his stake in Amstrad to BSkyB[104] and has since left the business.[105]

Early series of the show made frequent reference to Sugar's connection with Amstrad, but in the fourth series, following the deal with BSkyB, reference to Amstrad was dropped. Sugar is now billed simply as controlling a "vast business empire" (most of which is actually in property).[106] In a change of format, future winners will start a new business in a 50:50 split with Lord Sugar.

Nick Hewer is a former public relations officer. His involvement with Lord Sugar began when his company was chosen to represent Amstrad in 1983. Hewer's role was as a PR manager, working with the media and press. He also became an integral part of Amstrad's corporate management.[107] He lives in France.[108]

Margaret Mountford has worked with Sugar as one of his main advisers for 20 years, and is a non-executive director of Amstrad.[dated info] 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.[109] In her column for the Daily Telegraph on 1 June 2009, Margaret announced that series 5 would be her last appearance on the show, as she intends to devote more time to her studies. She went on to study for a PhD in papyrology at University College London, studying documents found in Egypt and written in ancient Greek.[110]

Karren Brady is best known for being the former managing director of Birmingham City Football Club. She was appointed in March 1993,[111] when only 23 years old.[112] She was responsible for the company's flotation in 1997, thus becoming the youngest managing director of a British plc.[113] In 2007, Brady took part in Comic Relief Does The Apprentice where she was chosen as a team leader and took the women to victory, raising over £1,000,000 for charity.[114] She has since made recurring appearances on The Apprentice's sister show, You're Fired!.[115] In January 2010 she was appointed vice-chairman of West Ham United following a change of ownership of the club.[116]

Filming locations

The tasks are mostly filmed in and around the London area, though the contestants have on occasion been sent as far afield as France, the Mediterranean, Morocco and Dubai. In Series One, the team house was located in Chiswick.[117] A location in Hampstead Heath was used in Series 2 and another in Notting Hill for the third series.[118][119] In Series 4, the candidates' accommodation was a converted glass factory in Battersea[120] and in Series 5, the candidates lived in a penthouse house at Portobello Lofts, Ladbroke Grove.[121] In Series 6, the candidates lived in Bedford Square and in Series 7, they lived in an 8 bedroom mansion in East Sheen.[122][123] In Series 8, they lived in a town house in Porchester Terrace, Bayswater.[124] Series 9 saw the candidates living in a Grade II listed property at 6, Lincoln's Inn Fields in Holborn [125]

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, the Citigroup Centre, although neither Amstrad or Alan Sugar has offices in any of these locations.[126] More recently, aerial footage has included skyscrapers outside these districts, namely Strata SE1, in Elephant and Castle, and the Shard, in Southwark.[127] For the series introduction, and for the post-firing "walk of shame" exit sequences the Amstrad HQ building in Brentwood was used in Series 1–3. Following Amstrad's sale to BSkyB in 2007 this changed to the Viglen HQ building in St Albans, Hertfordshire from Series 4 onward – this location is also used for the Week 11 interviews task.

The "boardroom" (and the reception area outside) is in fact a custom-built set in a West London television studio,[26] and the boardroom receptionist ("Frances" in Series One, Three, Four and Five, "Jenny" in Series Two) is an employee at the production company Talkback Thames, not Sugar's real secretary. However, Sugar's actual PA is called Frances.[128]

The candidates' "walk of shame" exit sequences are actually filmed at the beginning of the series,[128] at the same time as the scene in which they are shown entering the headquarters 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.[129] In more noticeable cases, hairstyles have also been different.[129] 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.[128]

Related programmes

The Apprentice: You're Fired!

This 30-minute programme is broadcast on BBC Two immediately following an airing of The Apprentice. It was 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. Dara Ó Briain presents the shows running alongside the sixth series of The Apprentice, after Chiles took a contract with ITV. The shows are recorded at Riverside Studios.[130] Celebrities who have appeared on the show include those from the worlds of television, comedy, radio and business, such as Dominic Littlewood, Trevor Nelson, Michael Mcintyre and Michelle Mone.[131][132]

The Apprenticast

The beginning of the third series saw the launch of a weekly podcast called The Apprenticast, and a radio programme on BBC Five Live, both hosted by former Blue Peter presenter Richard Bacon and running for thirty minutes.[133] Both programmes featured former candidates being questioned by members of the public, comedians, and those who work in business.[134] Some critics have described Bacon's performance as better than that of Adrian Chiles, who presented the similar, but television-based, programme The Apprentice: You're Fired![14]

For the 2009 series, an independent weekly podcast was also released, hosted by first series contestant James Max, in conjunction with London talk station LBC (on which Max hosts his own show).

Comic Relief Does The Apprentice

Between the airing of the second and third series of The Apprentice, it was announced that a celebrity version of the programme was to be recorded in aid of the charity Comic Relief.[135] The programme was entitled Comic Relief Does The Apprentice and was recorded on 15 December 2006.[136] It aired in two parts on 15 and 16 March 2007.[137] Five male and five female celebrities took part in the programme which featured only one task. Piers Morgan, a former editor of the Daily Mirror, was the celebrity fired by Sir Alan Sugar during the Red Nose Day telethon after the "boys' team" lost.[138] Morgan went on to win a full length series of the American Celebrity Apprentice. The other celebrities participating in the programme were Alastair Campbell, Cheryl Cole, Danny Baker, Jo Brand, Karren Brady, Maureen Lipman, Ross Kemp, Rupert Everett, Tim Campbell and Trinny Woodall.[11][139] Tim Campbell, winner of the first series of The Apprentice, was not in the original line-up, but was brought in when Everett decided to leave after the first day.[139][140] The celebrities managed to raise over £1 million for charity.[141]

Another Comic Relief Does The Apprentice celebrity special aired on 12 and 13 March 2009. The "boys' team" were Alan Carr, Jack Dee, Gerald Ratner, Jonathan Ross and Gok Wan, and the "girls' team" Michelle Mone, Patsy Palmer, Fiona Phillips, Carol Vorderman and Ruby Wax. At the time the show was recorded, Jonathan Ross was suspended by the BBC over a prank telephone call row, but he was nevertheless permitted to appear since the programme would not be aired until after the suspension had been lifted.[142] Alan Carr was eventually fired for being "too happy", relieving him from the "two grumpy ones", Dee and Ratner.

Sport Relief Does The Apprentice

After the first celebrity version proved to be successful, the BBC decided to schedule a second celebrity edition in March 2008, to raise money for Sport Relief.[143] Once again, five male and five female celebrities competed for charity to sell the most celebrity memorabilia. Viewers saw Hardeep Singh Kohli get fired by Sugar.[144] The other celebrities participating in this edition were Phil Tufnell, Nick Hancock, Lembit Öpik, Kelvin MacKenzie, Lisa Snowdon, Jacqueline Gold, Louise Redknapp, Clare Balding and Kirstie Allsopp.[143][145] The show aired on BBC1 on 12 and 14 March 2008 and was won by the girls' team.[146]

Young Apprentice

Main article: Young Apprentice

In May 2009, after episode 5 of The Apprentice: You're Fired!, it was announced that the application process had begun for a new spin-off for candidates aged sixteen and seventeen.

The first series started on BBC One on 12 May 2010,[147] and consisted of 10 candidates – 5 boys and 5 girls.[148] It was won by 17-year old Arjun Rajyagor, with the runner-up being Tim Ankers. Instead of the six figure salary and job working for Lord Sugar, the winner received £25,000 in funding for his future prospects and further education. Margaret Mountford's replacement, Karren Brady, made her debut on Junior Apprentice, having begun appearing on the adult version on 10 May 2011 in series seven.

On 28 August 2010, the BBC confirmed that a second series of the Junior Apprentice had been commissioned. The new series once again featured 16 to 17-year olds, this time increased to twelve candidates, and featured an extended 8 episode format, but with the title being changed to Young Apprentice. The first episode aired on BBC One on 24 October 2011.[149] Zara Brownless won the second series, with James McCullagh being the runner-up. A third series began airing on 1 November 2012, and was won by Ashleigh Porter-Exley, with Lucy Beauvallet being the runner-up.

It was confirmed in February 2013 via Lord Sugar's Twitter account that the BBC decided not to renew a further series of the Young Apprentice, making Series 3 its last.

Special programmes


The Apprentice: Tim in the Firing Line was an hour-long documentary which aired on 19 February 2006, days before the launch of the second series. It followed Tim Campbell, the winner of Series One, during the first twelve months of the job that he won on The Apprentice. Working within Amstrad's health and beauty division, his task was to market a new anti-wrinkle product, named The Integra.[139][150] The programme also documented the reaction of Campbell's family,[151] including mother Una Campbell, fiancée Jasmine Johnson, and daughter Kayla Campbell.[152] As a result of his impressive performance, he was offered a permanent position within Amstrad.[153] Sir Alan Sugar later said that Campbell's job would not have been in danger had he failed to make the product a success, and that the project was a "joint responsibility".[150]

The Apprentice: Beyond the Boardroom was a one-off special shown on BBC Two on 2 June 2007.[154] The programme featured interviews with the final five candidates from Series Three. Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford also gave their opinions on the final five, along with some of the previously fired candidates.[155] The programme spoke about the candidates' private lives, revealing that Kristina Grimes was sent to a convent at age 17 owing to her pregnancy, Tre Azam once fell asleep whilst driving and nearly died, Simon Ambrose was bullied as a child and has an IQ of 174, Katie Hopkins managed to complete the New York Marathon whilst she was pregnant.[154][155] Friends of the candidates and members of their families, including parents, children, and partners, aired their views.[155]

The Apprentice: The Worst Decisions Ever was a one-off special which was screened on BBC Two on 3 April 2008. It revisited some of the poor decisions made by candidates in previous series.

The Apprentice: Motor Mouths was a one-off special which was screened on BBC Two on 18 April 2008 in which celebrity fans and former contenders remembered those "motor mouth" candidates who only just failed to become "The Apprentice".

An Apprentice Special of The Weakest Link aired on BBC One on 30 May 2008. It featured memorable candidates from past series of The Apprentice along with Apprentice narrator Mark Halliley replacing Jon Briggs as gameplay commentator.


The Apprentice: Why I Fired Them were documentaries in which Sir Alan Sugar looks back over the series so far, discussed the merits and shortcomings of the candidates, and explained in more detail why he fired each candidate when he did.[156] It featured the former participants' views of their time on the programme and what they had learnt from the experience.[157] Sugar's assistants Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford also spoke about the former contestants.[157] At the end of the programme, Sugar reviews the performances of the two finalists. It had its debut in series 3. However, it did not broadcast during series 7 and was replaced by How To Get Hired, presented by Dara O Brian. It returned in Series 8.

The Apprentice: The Final Five were documentaries about the remaining final five contestants. It has its debut in series 4.



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 Daily Mirror described it as "jaw-dropping viewing".[158] Broadsheet newspapers have given the programme a similarly positive reception, with The Daily Telegraph calling it "The most addictive show in years",[158] and The Guardian saying that it provided "A salutary lesson in aggressive buying and selling, hiring and firing". The Sunday Times said that it was "not just a game show: it's a business school."[158] The Evening Standard was also favourable, describing the programme as "terribly compelling".[158]

According to a report released by Ernst & Young in August 2013, the rise of popular television programmes like The Apprentice, have helped to encourage and foster an entrepreneurial culture across the UK. The report revealed that 71% of entrepreneurs surveyed thought the UK encourages an entrepreneurial spirit.[159]


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".[160] Talk show host Sir 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".[161]

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.[162] In response to these criticisms, 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".[162]

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 stated 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 said that the show is more concerned with giving viewers a rags-to-riches ending than employing the most able candidate, and that the show promotes bullying in the workplace.[163]

Former contestants Lucinda Ledgerwood and James Max have criticised the tasks on the show as being too heavily sales-focused and designed for entertainment rather than as tests of all-round business skills.[164][165][166]

A number of people have criticised the show's editing and production methods. Contestants Syed Ahmed and Tre Azam accused the show of dumbing down their appearances for entertainment.[167] Gerri Blackwood said that her boardroom scene was filmed again to make it look better.[168] Alan Sugar himself revealed in his autobiography (but did not criticise) that the boardroom scenes are edited to create tension. Jokes and light hearted encounters are cut out, and Alan is seen "banging the table".[169]

Media Watch has voiced concerns over inclusion of company names and products such as Chrysler in the programme, accusing the producers of breaking BBC policy.[170] Despite these claims, Talkback Thames has denied any suggestion of product placement.[170]

The show received criticism from viewers during series six after it was revealed that orders placed in the programme were not genuine.[171]

Viewing figures

The Apprentice has received high rating figures in its run.[172] The first series, broadcast in 2005, achieved an average of 2.5 million viewers, with a peak of 3.8 million people watching throughout the series.[172] It had an 11% share of the audience and some episodes managed to beat more popular programmes, such as Desperate Housewives, and some films, such as Ali G Indahouse, which were airing on rival channels at the time.[172][173] Series Two achieved 4.4 million viewers on average, with a peak audience of 5.95 and a 27% audience share.[172] Episodes of this series achieved higher ratings than the 2005 UEFA Cup Final and the film Pearl Harbor.[49] Series Three, airing on the "more mainstream" BBC One, attracted 6.8 million viewers at its peak, with a 27% audience share.[52][56] This series managed to attract more viewers than City Lights, Grand Designs and Big Brother.[56][174] Prior to the airing of the third series, Comic Relief Does The Apprentice attracted 6.72 million viewers, becoming the fifth most-watched programme on BBC One the week it aired.[175] The fourth series opened to 6.4 million viewers,[64] and the series peaked at 9.7 million during the last episode.[65]

The first episode of series five of The Apprentice averaged 8.11m (33.3% share). The previous highest-rating instalment was the opening programme of series four, which achieved 6.4m (25.6%) on 26 March 2008. The Apprentice: You're Fired! garnered 3.01m (15.2%) for BBC Two in the 30 minutes from 10:00 pm.


The Apprentice won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) for "Best Feature" during the 2006 awards, beating Top Gear, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Dragons' Den.[176] It was also nominated for a BAFTA for "Best Feature" at the 2007 awards,[177] but was beaten by The Choir.[178]

Other awards that the programme has won include:[179]

Parodies and imitations

The show has been imitated in the ITV programme Harry Hill's TV Burp.[180] It was also mocked in the BBC impression 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.[181]

Rory Bremner did an impression of Sir Alan on the show Bremner Bird and Fortune; he was in the boardroom with the main London Mayoral candidates, Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick, and after each of the candidates failed to get a single vote according to his results, he hired himself for the job claiming he "would make a profit on City Hall". In Dead Ringers Bremner also impersonated a Sir Alan with magic powers castigating a contestant over an event akin to what occurred to The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

In early 2007, the show was mocked in the television programme Kombat Opera Presents The Applicants.[182] The series has been lampooned on the Boleg Bros website, where it is shot in Lego.[183] Paul Merton and Ian Hislop also parodied the show during a promotional advert for the 2007 and 2008 series of Have I Got News for You.[184]

In June 2007, shortly after the conclusion of Series Three of The Apprentice, rival UK channel ITV began airing Tycoon, described in The Times as "a shameless rip-off of The Apprentice".[185] Mark Thompson, The BBC's director general, accused ITV of "copycatting" and said that Tycoon was "very like The Apprentice, and there's possibly a bit of Dragons' Den in there".[186] The series followed Dragons' Den star Peter Jones' search for a new business tycoon.[187] It proved relatively unsuccessful and was removed from a prime time slot on Tuesdays after achieving fewer than 2 million viewers, over 2.5 million below the channel's average.[188] The final episode attracted just 1.3 million viewers.[189] The programme's winner, Iain Morgan, won a prize of over £200,000.[189][190]

In the fourth series of Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, Brooker parodied The Apprentice, with Brooker taking on the role of a Sugar-like character dressed in a crown and gown, and replacing the catchphrase, "You're fired" with "You're fucked."[191]

Lord Sugar starred in a mock clip of The Apprentice within the 2012 Doctor Who episode, "The Power of Three". The clip takes place in or near the year 2020.

Series have expanded outside television with a number of University student groups recreating local competitions by sticking to the format of tasks. What is known as Student Apprentice competitions have been hosted across the country in a number of Universities, especially in London. Events became so popular competitions joined as Regional Student Apprentice in London and other regions in UK. In 2013, these were joined to form National Student Apprentice,[192] which became a competition bringing together six regions for a national event.


On 10 February 2005, Sir Alan Sugar released a book to coincide with the first series, called The Apprentice: How to Get Hired Not Fired.[193] On 16 February 2006, the book was revised with additional information relating to the second series.[194] An official magazine was first released on 23 May 2007.[13] It includes items about business, interviews with candidates from the programme and other Apprentice-related features.[195][196][197]

The Apprentice has included various pieces of classical and popular music throughout. Numerous pieces from film soundtracks are used as well as music featured in the BBC TV series Doctor Who. Examples of the music used include the opening theme ("Dance of the Knights" from Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev) and "The Boardroom", "You're Fired" and "Closing Credits" from The Apprentice (Original Theme) by Dru Masters. An official soundtrack was released on 4 June 2007.[198] At the beginning of the first episode of Series 6, the iconic string phrase from the first movement of Gustav Mahler's Sixth Symphony can be heard in, one might surmise, a numerological nod. Further episodes in Series 6, include an extract from a piece by the French composer and pianist, Erik Satie, (from his "Gymnopédies No 1"), music from the Disney-Pixar 2009 film, Up, composed by Michael Giacchino, and a famous extract from Benjamin Britten's opera, Peter Grimes. A number of episodes also featured brief snippets of several tracks from The Sims series of games, such as the neighbourhood theme from The Sims 3, was briefly used in the last episode of series 6 and one of the build tracks from Makin' Magic was used in Series 7 episode 8.

In 2009, a DVD called "The Apprentice: The Best of Series 1–4" was released.

YouTube releases

In November 2010, the BBC made the first two series of The Apprentice available to stream via the BBC's YouTube channel. It is unknown whether any future series will be released.


Original series

Series Start date End date Episodes
16 February 2005
4 May 2005
22 February 2006
10 May 2006
28 March 2007
13 June 2007
26 March 2008
11 June 2008
25 March 2009
7 June 2009
6 October 2010
19 December 2010
10 May 2011
17 July 2011
21 March 2012
3 June 2012
7 May 2013
17 July 2013


Date Entitle
2 April 2005
The Story So Far
4 May 2005
You're Hired
19 February 2006
Tim in the Firing Line
3 June 2007
Beyond the Boardroom
10 June 2007
Why I Fired Them
3 April 2008
The Worst Decisions Ever
18 April 2008
Motor Mouths
2 June 2008
The Final Five
8 June 2008
Why I Fired Them
11 June 2008
You're Hired
3 June 2009
The Final Five
5 June 2009
Why I Fired Them
7 June 2009
You're Hired
9 December 2010
The Final Five
16 December 2010
Why I Fired Them
19 December 2010
You're Hired
7 July 2011
The Final Five
15 July 2011
How to Get Hired
29 May 2012
The Final Five
2 June 2012
Why I Fired Them
3 June 2012
You're Hired
8 July 2013
The Final Five
11 July 2013
Why I Fired Them
17 July 2013
You're Hired


External links

  • BBC Online
  • BBC Programmes
  • Internet Movie Database
  • The Apprentice at
  • The Apprentice – UK Soundboard Soundboards
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