The Apprentice starts tonight

Whatever your plans for tonight are, cancel them. The Apprentice starts again at 9pm on BBC2 for its fifth series of business backstabbing, marketing mayhem and strategy suspense.

The prize, as you probably already know, is a £100,000 salary working for Sir Alan Sugar at Amstrad.
But not everything will be staying the same as it was in the last four series.

“You’ll have some shows that are specifically geared towards managing the difficult times,” said Suralan. “It’s much tougher out there.”

There are a few sneaky switches to make the competition more recession-friendly.

The traditional jaunt in the sun task, which takes place overseas and usually entails rushing round heady souks and finding obscure objects in beautiful local markets abuzz with colour, will be replaced by a trip to... the North of England. Yup, the travel-hungry contestants arrive at the airport with passports-in-hand and smiles-on-face to discover that in fact, far from the shores of Morocco, they’re going to be spending the week in Liverpool and Manchester.

Other changes include a new task encouraging people to buy British rather than getting them to market a foreign product, and reinventing the British seaside town of Margate for tourists.

Does Sir Alan think the new contestants match up to previous series’? “You would think they would come well armed with what not to do. But they don’t learn.”

Doesn’t sound too promising, but should make great TV. In fact, one of the hopefuls chickened out before filming even began. Realising he would actually have to not see his wife and kids for 12 weeks, the young gent decided not to even go through with the first task.

Meaning that there are now eight women and seven men vying for the six figure salary.

But lucrative as that may sound, maybe Sir Alan should be upping his game rather than making the contestants’ more fierce – of the four previous winners of The Apprentice, only two are still at Amstrad.

Tim Campbell, who won the first series, left after two years to set up the Bright Ideas Trust. It nurtures startups and young entrepreneurs. You can watch Smarta’s interview with Tim here.

And Michelle Dewberry, second-series winner, now runs Chiconomise, an online newsletter that is soon to become a fully-blown website for credit crunch chic. She left less than a year after joining Sir Alan. You can watch Smarta’s interview with Michelle here.

Which just goes to show that the brightest minds with the best business potential don’t want to be tied down working for someone else, even if that someone is Sir Alan Sugar. Nope – they want to start their own businesses. Just like you. Hooray!

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