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Young Apprentice. I Blame the Parents

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So my good lady turned to me two minutes into the Young Apprentice on Monday night and said, "Aren't you bored of all this yet?"

She took me by surprise, to be honest, as I thought she loved The Apprentice as much as I do. We always watch it. We love everything about it. We love Alan's tiny hands and the grandiose music and the London we used to live in and the fact that there will be at least three complete losers among the 12 misguided egomaniacs taking part that you'll quickly grow to hate. I hadn't considered that such merriment might be past its best. It ruined the show.

At once I was on my guard, as if I now had to defend the merits of what I had considered such a cornerstone of our relationship. It was as crushing as if she'd said, "aren't you bored of all this yet?" while we were playing snowballs in the garden, or settled around the fire drinking cognac (neither of which we actually do, incidentally, but you get the point).

But she was onto something. While at first I refused to acknowledge that My Official Favourite Show might be losing its lustre, it was all so agonisingly familiar that I did find myself drifting, especially when the contestant most kindly described as the Irish "economist" started wandering around the streets of Clacton or somewhere in a pirate suit. He might have looked a fool, but at least he and the rest of the boys seemed mildly interesting. Half of the girls seemed posh simply to the point of being annoying, and argumentative with it.

With my attention waning - and, by now, completely out of snacks - I tried to focus more on the hopefuls' individual abilities, which is hard when it seemed that half of them looked alike. I gave up and found myself concluding that they were actually just a bunch of 16 and 17-year-old over-achievers with vaguely adult faces and a comically overblown sense of value - a bit like myself when I was 17, only with rather more qualifications.

Still, in the same way that I always single out the one friendly-looking person at a party and hone in on him, I swiftly settled on Harry Hitchens as The Likable One. So he's my favourite. Every other one of these twerps tottered around under the weight of their own heads, fought like dogs to be heard over everyone else, used three words instead of one (or fewer still, please!) and were at pains to convince the world that they were better than everyone else in it.

How does a child get like this? Does it start in primary school, in a squabble about pens? A lunchtime spat about who gets to sit at the bogey-free end of the dinner table? I tried to picture a household where Florence or Rupert or whoever would be allowed - worse, encouraged - to swan around as if they were born to greatness. The kind of kid who would think that the non-appearance of a grovelling servant at breakfast was a constant source of disappointment. Kids who, and this is the rub, thought it a spiffing idea to enter The Apprentice in the first place.

Can you imagine the auditions? Mum and dad waiting in the wings as Jr is called onto the producer's couch and encouraged to deliver sound-bites that make them sound even more annoying than everyone else?

"How did it go, darling?"

"Brilliant - I was a total tosser!"

It's not telly, really, is it? It's a pseudo-intellectual catfight, an entrepreneurial Total Wipeout, and it's only on so that we can all look at our own kids and go, "Thank God they work at Tesco." All those free cans of beans add up, you know...

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