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The Apprentice

Tue May 7, 9-10pm, BBC1

Series nine, episode one.
We had our doubts about last year’s series of ‘The Apprentice’. Was this hardy perennial running out of steam at last? Had the contestants become too generic and predictable? Were the tasks insufficiently varied and interesting? Something was wrong.

On the basis of this opening episode, it seems the producers might just have thought so too. There are a few minor tweaks in the format – for example, tonight’s project managers have to volunteer on the spur of the moment in the boardroom. But mainly, the casting seems better. What we have here is a simple selling task, and we’d hate to say too much beyond that.

But suffice to say that early rows, backstabs and amusing incompetencies abound. A couple of this year’s business-bots seem to be genuinely unhinged. And another of them is a dead-ringer for Stella English, which suggests a remarkable degree of magnanimity on Lord Sugar’s part. Early days, but this looks like it could be fun.