I never watched Big Brother because the whole basic principle of the thing seemed forced, it was putting people, who were stupid enough, and egotistical enough, to put themselves under stress, in the hope of some financial profit. Recently a programme entitled The Apprentices has been shown on a weekly basis on BBC television. This programme has all the hallmarks of Big Brother, the sniping, the boasting, the ill manners, and the hype. For a start, I believe most of these people have a university education. In my day an apprentice was someone with a certain amount of talent who was sent, on leaving school, to serve his time under the guidance of a journeyman, in one of the many skills of tradesmen, not managers. Managers were articled to a profession. These people put themselves forward as potential managers. The whole programme is allegedly under the guidance of Sir Alan Sugar. This is a man who is allegedly running a large number of companies, successfully. In this role he is irascible, critical to a level of ill manners, and making decisions that no sane manager of his standing would dream of making, unless there is the guiding hand of a BBC producer behind him. For a long time I was a manager, with a reasonably large workforce, a design budget and construction budget in millions, and if there was one thing I discovered early on, was that if you are going to get the best out of the staff, you treated them with dignity. What you never did was correct them or praise them in front of their contemporaries. In consequence of this, I find the whole project nothing but angst for the sake of angst. I have only watched snippets, but the general consensus must be that what these people are asked to do, in two days, is something that in industry will be done in two months. What they are asked to do is also tantamount to asking the pilot of a jumbo jet to compose a requiem. Anyone who has sat on a business boardroom will know that people talking over one another is counterproductive, and provides an atmosphere where there is an underlying dislike. In most circumstances it would not be tolerated.
In the first few episodes the contestants were divided into two groups, male and female, they were told to choose their own project leader, and each group was given the same task. It was then discovered that the same people were being picked as leader, not necessarily for the right reasons, and in the fourth episode Sir Alan chose the leaders, not in a random fashion, because he chose for one team, a man who was clearly overawed by the whole atmosphere, was reclusive and would never have made team leader. On the other team he nominated a woman who was intelligent, constructive, and within the choice available, would have been thought suitable. It was a policy of the programme to give the people a project and then send them off in taxis to some point, and during the journey, with the teams split into two taxis for each group, communicating on mobile phones, were expected to start forming a strategy. It might have been easy to photograph the people, but the whole concept was unfair, it was difficult for them to see one another, when in the same taxi, they were distracted by being in a taxi in traffic, and communication between the two vehicles was absurd.
I found the backbiting, the boasting, and constant jumble of a number of people all talking at once, and then the savage criticism when the project was completed and examined, to be nothing more than a rude hype. I believe Sir Alan is enjoying his role, perhaps a little cynically, because I am naive enough to believe he could never have arrived where he is if he had always behaved in this manner. I think what this programme says, more than anything, is the quality and format demanded by the audience, and the BBC is happy to pander to that. For me, it is another symptom of what is wrong in our society today, people taking dross for gems.