As a rule I don’t – if I have any choice about it – do reality though being a hyper-cautious moral wuss my flights of escapism are normally fuelled by books and cinema rather than Charlie or H. My highs might only be literary or cinematic but at least they don’t involve kidney failure or brain damage. That said I have got the Withnail & I boxed set on order and there’s always the possibility of playing the traditional 'Withnail & I drinking game' whilst watching it.
The only reality show I do do is The Apprentice. And paradoxically it probably appeals so much because it is so not real.
The premise is real. The tasks are real(ish). The prize is real (though I imagine it to be something of a poisoned chalice).
The applicants are not. They are without fail the biggest bunch of fakers and self-deluded charlatans ever to dissemble across the face of the earth. And they get more fake each year.
Overblown. Pompous. Constantly self-centredly orgasming over their own self-directed, egocentric hyperbole. Totally blind to the way they willingly sacrifice what little shred of dignity they may possess on the televised altar of their own mistaken self-belief that they are “the one”. I utterly loathe them.
But I utterly love loathing them.
And that’s why I watch.
In a real sense The Apprentice is educational. This is how you do not do business. This is how you do not succeed. The dinosaurs and the outmoded concepts that still abound in this grubby little mercantile world are both amazing and appalling. In the first week the leader of the girl’s team urged her female associates to wear heels and a short skirt as it would help them all sell more product. A woman. A woman said this to other women. And could not understand why they objected. I would have loved her to suggest a shorter skirt to Karen Brady. Actually, sod that, I would have loved her to suggest it to Nick Hewer.
Nick is great. His expression couldn't look more sour if he was sucking a Haribo’s Tangfastic that had been soaked in vinegar from Craig Revel Horwood’s left armpit.
Ultimately though the true draw of the show is Sir Alan Sugar. I won’t pretend to like him. But compared to the applicants he’s the lesser of two evils. My enemy’s enemy is my friend, etc. And Sir Alan is certainly no friend to the contestants.
They’ve introduced a new schtick into this current series. Nearly twice the number of combatants but the potential for multiple firings in each show. It sounds like something out of a hard-core porn movie - e.g. last week Sir Alan dispatched 2 twats in one go. One before he'd even made it to the final boardroom stand-off. It’s beautiful; seeing all these plastically confident god-complexes crumble with the sudden realization that Sir Alan could finger them all out of the running at any possible moment.
And it’s good for them too. It humanises them. It strips away their self-erected façade of impervious eternally-ensured victory. Seeing them tramp away dejectedly with their Gucci luggage trolleys we finally get to see the disappointed (and disappointing) little children at heart that, without fail, they all secretly are.
But Sir Alan doesn’t go far enough. I want to see them tortured mercilessly with a constant weight of stress... I want to see them weeping snottily beneath a tonne-heavy sword of Damoclesiastic anxiety suspended by the merest spider’s web of Sir Alan's diminutive mercy... Psychologically waterboarded with the spectre of Sir Alan suddenly appearing at any given moment to kick them off the show with his career-ending fingerpoint of shame. When the telephone rings at the delegate's house at the start of the show to tell them where the next task is to take place I want Sir Alan to suddenly come onto the line and randomly fire whatever pole-greaser has got to the phone first to answer it. When they’re in the middle of Camden Town selling moody spuds from an Amstrad owned market stall I want Sir Alan to appear in the queue in a cloth cap and a Frank Spencer overcoat to hurl their Maris Piper’s back into their faces and tell them they’ve had their chips and the taxi is waiting in the gutter to take them back home to Crapchester. And most delicious of all, I want the boardroom showdown survivors to stagger back to the house at the end of the show, full of anecdotal PTSD and the lone survivor’s raconteur spirit only to have Sir Alan leap out of the wardrobe before they can get their hands on a conciliatory glass of Prosecco and say, ”Ha! Fooled you, worm! You have no right to your smarmy sense of relief! Get out – you’re fired! Fired just because I can do it and the all-sucking vacuum at the heart of my demonic and blackened soul is bigger and far mightier than yours!”
Boom. The ghost in the machine morphs into Frankenstein’s monster. Or a smaller, hairier, coconut headed Godzilla.
Now that, my friends, would be a show.
And true reality.
Because as we all know, that is how real life works.
It tests whether you’ve got balls. And then it kicks you in them.
Welcome to my world.
Now get out. You’re fired.