What a pity The Apprentice is back. It is so depressing. I watched it a couple of times years ago, but never again, because it is everything horrible about life: ferociously competitive; grovelling; ruthlessness; greed; the crushing and humiliation of the weak; desperation; showing off; sneering; mockery; and money, money, money.
“It’s like life,” says Fielding glumly. “The workplace is a jungle.” And he should know, he has been a teacher. Same thing: sucking up, panicking, slaving away, total obedience to the rules, fighting for your livelihood before a critical, heartless, nitpicking, unsupportive panel of judges, AKA Ofsted.
But The Apprentice is only the worst of a rotten bunch. We’ve had Big Brother, Child Genius, Masterchef, Britain’s Got Talent, Strictly and Bake Off. Yes, even Bake Off, which is meant to be gentler. No, it isn’t. You’re given a near-impossible task and bust a gut trying to do it. You put your life’s experience, your heart, your dreams and all your strength into it before standing to attention behind your offering, exhausted, sweating and terrified. And then along comes Mr or Mrs Prune-face Judge, griping, poking and picking about, and whingeing that the shape isn’t quite perfect and one bun has stuck to another while baking.
Lovely for the person who wins, but what about the losers, who have given their all? Their all isn’t good enough. What must that feel like? How will they manage afterwards? And what if it’s a “reality” show? No skills, it’s just about who you are. Put the humans in the ring with all their flaws showing, then watch them being ripped apart, despised and rejected.
Why do we love watching these demolition jobs? Can’t we have mellower, spite-free competitions? “They wouldn’t be very popular,” says Fielding. Yes they would. I went to one at the weekend – Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World. No rules, no prizes, only for laughs. I speak from experience – I came second once, decades ago, as Miss Ruislip. Nobody was jealous. Same this time. What huge efforts everyone made to dress up, audience as well as contestants. For no prizes, just a Logan crown. Perhaps we’re not that bad after all.