THE BLOG

The Apprentice: Is it Still the Business?

21/12/2015 23:30 GMT | Updated 20/12/2016 10:12 GMT

So that's it for another year and the chosen one (not the Special One - in case you missed it, they were fired last week by someone even more ruthless) has been anointed.

As we now know, the lucky candidate was Vana Koutsomitis. Yes, I am aware that she was the runner up and as a consequence won't have to answer to Lord Sugar ever again, hence the use of the word 'lucky' as opposed to 'cursed'. You have to sympathise with the winner. Poor Joseph Valente, plumbing new depths of awfulness with that company name and logo.

It's quite incredible - unbelievable, actually - but as hard as I rack my brain, I can't recall another TV favourite which first aired in 1890 that retains the same host as it had in the very beginning and especially a host who doesn't look a day over 190. Leah Totten, the victor from 2013, insists that he has never been a patient at the Dr. Leah Cosmetic Skin Clinic. And after seeing him in 4K Ultra High Definition, I'm inclined to trust her.

In honour of the 18 wide-eyed innocents / fiercely ambitious prospective Celebrity Big Brother housemates who originally started out in the process and have over the ensuing weeks lived to regret posting their application form, here are the 17 things (sorry, it was meant to be 18, but my adding up is as bad as most of the contestant's) I've gleaned from watching this; the 125th series of the premier business programme on the BBC. Acronym wise, those three letters also happen to stand for Bargain Basement Capitalists.

1- Why is the once great, but now increasingly tedious show still called The Apprentice? After all, the budding billionaires aren't fighting to be Sugar's lackey any more, they're battling for the opportunity to be his partner - the Lennon to his McCartney, the Morecambe to his Wise. Or, if you prefer, the Burke to his Hare.

2- We continue to miss Nick and Margaret. The Jacob Marley like presence of the pair hangs over proceedings as if they were ghosts from episodes past. It hasn't been the same since they left. Their mix of gentle mocking encouragement and insouciance made them the perfect complement to the overblown confidence and arrogance of those taking part and, of course, the very man they sat either side of.

3- Claude Littner has been exposed as something completely reprehensible in the eyes of his former boss. Namely a throughly decent and kindly chap. Not at all the attack dog he was previously portrayed as, in reality he's more a Canadian Sphynx; a bald breed of pussycat, who only occasionally shows his claws.

4- Karren, on the other hand, has barely retracted hers throughout the entire run. She was forever ripping into the defenceless participants. That would never have happened in Ms Mountford's day.

5- Anyone in their right mind would surely pay Lord Sugar £250,000 of their own money not to to go into business with him. Maybe there's a better show in that concept.

6- His Lordship quickly became nothing but a schoolboy bully as evidenced by his appalling treatment of Scott Saunders.

7- Joseph has been painted as a latter day Boycie from Only Fools and Horses, when he is in fact a carbon copy of Flash Harry as portrayed by George Cole in the original St Trinian's films. Perhaps acting's where Valente's true talents lay. Although Lord Sugar dressed as Millicent Fritton might be a stretch.

8- If this year's crop of wannabes are an indicator of the calibre of future entrepreneurs and captains of industry, then the country's royally buggered and we may as well change forthwith into a communist style economy.

9- Ruth Whiteley should have won. She was barmy, bonkers and irrational, however at least she had an interesting and unique taste in clothes. The look could best be described as an explosion in a pantomime costume department, which as coincidence would have it is the theme behind Versace's Fall / Winter 2016 collection. Next year, expect to see Scarlett Johansson strolling down Fifth Avenue dressed as a middle-aged telephone sales executive.

10- We need Frances back. The receptionist from yore gave the boardroom segment a degree of gravitas it's sadly lacking.

11- The tasks are getting monotonous and predictable. How many more times can they traipse off to France, playing the hapless Brits abroad in search of a variety of cheese they could as easily have found at their local branch of Waitrose?

12- The famous put-downs of which there were few this season and certainly none worth repeating have become about as funny as the putting down of a beloved and beleaguered family pet.

13- Al's pointing podgy finger of fate seems to be getting podgier. Soon it will be so fat, it'll be the subject of its very own merger when it joins together with a neighbouring digit.

14- Lord Sugar has turned into Bored Sugar. He no longer appears to be enjoying his role. You get the impression that he'd much rather be on Twitter commenting on weighty issues such as Cheryl's bodily shape.

15- The Bridge cafe, better known as the losers's cafe, is always so empty. A few cups of Nescafé once a week can't possibly be enough to keep it afloat. In all this time, why has no candidate's business plan ever been to take the Bridge and franchise (they love a franchise) it out into a global chain of coffee shops, where the world's failures can meet to discuss and lament their terrible decisions in life?

16- Regrettably, the newest person to join the panel of interviewers, interrogating the final five, turned out not to be celebrated novelist, Lynda La Plante, but Linda Plant, an overly tanned interior designer.

17- Thanks to a distinctly lacklustre performance of late, it's Hackney's golden boy who deserves to be in the firing line. The question is though, who on earth would replace him? Obviously someone who is equally abrasive and opinionated would be good. And someone with an inside knowledge of how the game's played wouldn't go amiss either.

Dear God! I can hardly contemplate the dreadfulness of what I'm about to type, but step forward none other than Donald Trump's British PR woman and mighty mouthpiece: Katie Hopkins.