I didn’t own a TV during early series of The Apprentice so I was slow to catch on to what is now regarded as unmissable telly. And uniquely I seem not to be excited about next week when a new season returns with his Lordship, his team and another clutch of ghastly, egotistical, self-important jobsworths who have been set up for a big fall on prime-time TV. Humiliation goes with the territory.
I think I can just about see why it’s such a popular TV show if you can bear to watch, rather than squirm behind your laced fingers as I do – or switch off in a grump. I don’t object to it on TV terms so much as what a poor light it shines on us ambitious self-employed types, on those of us who try, who are at least having a go. I have it on good authority that people in jobs watch it just to sneer at us and to vindicate their own dreary career choices and that gives me a bad feeling.
Dragons’ Den is no better in my book, with the possible exception of Hilary Devey who at least offered to help people rather than just sneer at them, lambast them and then deny them. The commentary is identical week to week as we watch the poor, hopeless saps troop up those stairs in their largely fruitless quest. I don’t know how many series there have been but generally those who appear on the show have not watched sufficient earlier episodes to realise two harsh realities; you are over-valuing your dismal little NewCo and you are under-rehearsed in your pitch. Get a grip, Team! You are representing us all here and in a bad light to boot.
These programmes are Cringe TV, both of them. Where are the TV production companies wanting to give us a leg up, to polish us up and enable us to reflect our business ambitions and our contribution well? Why is everything so sneering, so cynical? Why are we made to look like muppets worthy of laughter and derision?
Don’t the applicants read the winners’ red top stories as they tell why they quit their much-vaunted prize so soon after the show is over and why they sue, or fail to contract? And what does this tell us about the times in which we live that there are another handful of dimmos who just cannot wait to show us that they have no skills in sales, management, creativity or diplomacy and are unable to play nicely in a team?
It’s not about entrepreneurship at all, is it?
But I think I have found the antidote, hidden away on Channel 4. It too stoops to some of the more tabloid tricks we are now used to in “reality” TV but Mary’s Bottom Line has worthy, believable and real goals. Mary Portas is attempting to reignite a tiny, tiny, tiny part of the British garment manufacturing industry in the Midlands, taking advantage of a small window of opportunity made available by dint of rising manufacturing costs overseas, to where we have exported our clothing industry lock, stock and barrel.
Mary is creating and marketing Kinky Knickers, a 100% British product. Yes they are more expensive but they will be quality. She’s taking eight youngsters off the dole and training them in her re-opened factory. It brings together all the skills required to set up and run a successful business in the real world including but not limited to product design, manufacture and marketing. Does she succeed? Either way. Mary’s goal and TV show is worthy of my support. And it will give me somewhere to go when I want to feel good about myself as reflected in TV’s output. It also makes great feel-good entertainment.
Mary’s Bottom Line allows me to be hopeful about British industry and upbeat about being a British businesswoman and the first episode brought both Mary and I to tears which has never happened to me during the The Apprentice or Dragons’ Den unless it be tears of shame and frustration.
The Apprentice? You know what I’m going to say, don’t you? You’re fired!