"There was no deliberate, ‘Get a load of dolly birds’ or anything like that," 'The Apprentice' boss Lord Sugar has claimed, after his show was accused of being sexed up for ratings.
The latest line-up of female candidates look more glamorous than ever, but the business tycoon told The Sun: "I don’t think the glamour is going to affect ratings. That wasn’t intentional.
“To be honest with you, people make the best of themselves when they know they are going to be on TV."
The BBC One series, which returns tonight (7 May) at 9pm, features a candidate - Luisa Zissman - who says she has the "sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit", as well as blonde former model Leah Totton, 24 — an NHS doctor who runs her own skin rejuvenation firm.
Ratings for 'The Apprentice' saw a significant drop last year, with the final episode pulling in three and a half million viewers less than the previous year’s 10 million.
Last week 'The Apprentice's Karren Brady revealed that, contrary to his on-screen persona, Lord Sugar is a big softie, frustrated by how the public perceive him.
“All you ever get to see is him with his haranguing finger,” she told HuffPostUK at the launch of the ninth series in London, which sees a fresh twist to the format.
“But he’s got a brilliant sense of humour, and he’s a very loyal and great friend to have, and a great family man. We see him bringing his grandchildren into the boardroom to watch the show, and he and his wife are always around.”
Brady, a successful businesswoman in her own right, who took over from Margaret Mountford as Lord Sugar’s right-hand-person, believes that the show lives and dies with Lord Sugar...
“People often ask me why the winner hasn’t ever leaked out, and it’s because of the respect people have for Alan and the process they’re in that that doesn’t happen. Without him, 'The Apprentice' would be a poor imitation, if someone else sat in his chair.
“Lots of business people like to be on the television, but they don’t have the presence that he has, so it doesn’t work.
“It’s his show - when Alan finishes, we (Brady and Hewer) finish, we’ll leave it to some young buck to come and do it.”
So who has what it takes? Let's meet this year's candidates...
The brand new series of 'The Apprentice' returns to BBC One at 9pm on Tuesday 7 May