Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday 6 February 2023

‘Fame... what you get is no tomorrow’

Either my television is playing up or the candidates on BBC 1’s ‘The Apprentice’ - at least the female ones - have undergone some strange facial metamorphosis; there are so many trout-pout lip-fillers and peculiar brow-lines on show that it looks like an advert for the SeaLife centre or an episode of Star Trek.

Other people have taken to social media to suggest that the obvious ‘tweakments’, elaborate personal grooming* and general demeanour of the contestants are more appropriate to ‘Love Island’ than a to process to select Lord Sugar’s next business partner - an impression borne out by the words ‘Reality Entertainment’ which appear on screen at the end of the programme.

The programme was always intended to be entertainment first and foremost - Wikipedia defines it as a ‘talent game show franchise’ - but the wanton cruelty of tasks where the participants are set up to fail (not least by being unnecessarily turfed out of bed at 4am) and made fools of on national television has, by series 20, weeded out all but the most arrogant, delusional or cynically fame-obsessed.

While the winner gets a business investment from the man himself, any candidate who makes it onto the show has the chance to achieve media fame - the Holy Grail of our time. From the Mail’s sidebar of shame to guest spots on TV via Instagram and TikTok, there are a myriad opportunities out there to find followers and monetise your status once you have established yourself in the public eye.

It would be interesting to know how many of these wannabe entrepreneurs have previously applied to appear in other reality shows. In a culture where a significant number of children surveyed say their main ambition is to be famous, as if it were an end in itself, I should not be be at all surprised if they had tried other options before. After all, the stakes are high; it would appear that sponsorship deals and lucrative endorsements beckon on every side once household name status has been achieved.

I wonder if there is a limit, a number of ‘celebrities’ beyond which the whole system overloads and breaks down. At present, it appears that the appetite for celebrity gossip is insatiable and that every new reality show will bring a fresh crop of potential Z listers to the ranks of the famous, but surely it can’t go on for ever - not least because there is surely only so much sponsorship or product placement to go round.

We are closer than ever to Warhol’s prediction of fifteen minutes of fame for everyone. If I were a more cynical and mercenary type and wanted to solicit a business investment from Lord Sugar, it would be for a TV production company, a year or so hence, specialising in ‘Where are they now?’ features on all the hundreds of reality show ‘celebrities’ who, having had their brief mayfly moment in the sun (or The Sun), will have sunk without trace back into obscurity.

*Though we have yet to be treated, as in the last series, to the bizarre spectacle of a sleeping  candidate’s hair extensions neatly laid out on the carpet beside her bed like a docile pet; O tempora, O mores!

(My thanks to Bucko at fuelinjectedmoose, whose comments on the previous post inspired this follow-up ramble.)


  1. There is much about The Apprentice that is ... suspect. For example, the 4am phone call. It happens every week and ends with the information that the cars will collect them in 20 minutes. And every week, we are expected to believe that they emerge from their beds and 20 minutes later, board the waiting cars perfectly turned out. Yeah ... 100% believable.

    1. I can almost believe that they could get ready in 20 minutes - I imagine they practise assiduously beforehand - but there is definitely something off about the timing; while the footage shows them getting into the cars in the dark, it always seems to be full daylight when they are briefed for the task, even if the venue is a short drive away.

      I assume the intervening time is used to correct make-up and feed them - 20 minutes leaves no time for breakfast and it wouldn’t be great if they started keeling over mid-task - and the 4.20 departure time helps avoid London traffic (as well, of course, as ensuring the candidates are sufficiently sleep-deprived to make entertaining errors).


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