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Can business be entertaining on TV?

I am a big fan of The Apprentice on TV. In fact I am a big fan of all business related programmes on TV. As a business owner myself, I always find it interesting to follow the experiences of others and so these programmes attract me.

The Apprentice should have been more interesting this year because instead of offering the winner a job, Lord Sugar was going to invest £250,000 and become their partner in business. So this prgramme truly became about entrepreneurship.

All the way through the series I thoroughly enjoyed it. Most (but not all) of the tasks involved using a business head and it was all done in an entertaining way. However...

The disappointing end of the film

Have you ever watched a film that you have enjoyed all the way through but because it had a poor ending, the whole thing was spoilt for you? Well that is how I feel about this year's The Apprentice. For 12 gruelling weeks, the competitors were tested to their limits to show their business and sales skills in order to win the final prize. The culmination of all of this was that the final four candidates had to submit business plans to Lord Sugar.

Each of the candidates has their strengths and their weaknesses. These would have to be balanced against the merits of their respective business plans.

There was Susan, a talented if naive person who had already shown true entrepreneurial spirit. Then there was Jim, a very gifted salesman who perhaps missed the point with his business plan and was unsurprisingly the first to go. The strongest candidate was Helen who failed because she had come up with a business plan that was fairly dull. And then we have the winner...

Tom lost more tasks than anybody else. He showed himself to be quite weak in selling and negotiation. And his business plan was perhaps the worst of the four (with the possible exception of Jim) because his plan failed to name the invention he had come up with and his figures were found to completely shambolic.

So why did he win?

Lord Sugar freely admitted that the business plan he submitted was going to be put on the "back burner". Or does that really mean that he was going to ignore the business plan? Tom won because Lord Sugar could see potential in the nail file that Tom had invented and already brought to market. Therein lies the true reason Tom won. The weeks of tests and trials and the merits of the business plans were totally irrelevant. It was the nail file that won this series.

I don't blame Lord Sugar for choosing Tom. Becoming Tom's partner and putting his business might behind this well designed product was perhaps too good an opportunity to miss. But it made a complete mockery of all the tasks in which the candidates competed. And it is for this reason that I question, can business really be entertaining on TV? It appears that the need to go for profit can often conflict with the need for entertainment.

Thu 28 July 2011 09:17:05

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