Last Thursday saw the twelfth series of BBC 1’s The Apprentice kick off. The show is still one of the most popular programmes in the U.K. with viewing figures at 5.5 million for the first episode, not including recordings or Internet streaming.
The Apprentice is a reality game show where eighteen businessmen and women compete in a series of challenges for the chance of winning a £250,000 investment from business magnate Lord Alan Sugar.
However, since its height in 2009 where 8.1 million viewers tuned in for the first episode the show has been slowly declining. Although this year had to compete with BBC 2’s The Fall as well as Channel 4’s Hunted, audience numbers were down 900,000 from last year’s first episode.
The first season started off with serious, hardnosed businessmen and women, but as the show has gone on producers have had to find more colourful characters in order to get audiences coming back for more.
This year’s crop includes people not amiss in the Big Brother household, including 33 year-old Karthik Nagesan- or the ‘Big K’- who described himself in his opening speech: ‘I’m an emperor. A true leader. A country’s not enough. A continent’s not enough. I’m after the world.’
The show’s decline isn’t so much that the format is tired but rather that it has become out-dated for 2016 viewers.
The Apprentice is a competition where material betterment is the end goal and where the ‘survival of the fittest mentality’ and cutthroat competitiveness are considered the means to get there.
In return for 3am starts as well as backstabbing and boasting in the boardroom, contestants are rewarded with the chance to live in a glamorous London mansion and the ultimate victor is allowed a cheeky spin in Lord Sugar’s Rolls Royce.
The show’s unabashed materialism has more in common with Harry Enfield’s mid-90s ‘Loads-of-Money’ sketch than with modern British television viewers, who are increasingly made up of ‘Millenials’ or ‘Generation Y’.
Where most of our parents and grandparents strove in life for bigger pay packets and prestigious promotions, a survey of 2,500 young people found more were interested in enjoying a life on a more modest income but with great experiences.
Whereas it was once common for an employee to stay in a single company for the entirety of their working life, Generation Y are expected to have had ten jobs by the time they reach thirty. The reason- why stay somewhere if they’re not enjoying it?
Tied into this, a study conducted by Eventbrite in 2014 found that millennials were more willing to spend money on live experiences rather than on desirable objects. The study also found that since 1987, the share of US consumer spending on experiences increased by 70 per cent.
Multinational firms have already had to change their tune in order to attract the best graduates. A Business Insider article on the day-to-day life of a J.P. Morgan intern put more emphasis on the fantastic gym next to the Krispy Kreme shop and the staff canteen’s ‘Taco Tuesday’ than it did on the salary.
The lifestyle of flashy cars and Mediterranean villas is slipping away, whether older generations and television producers want it to or not.
If The Apprentice fails to change soon, then it will lead to spiralling viewing figures, the likes of which that not even ‘Big K’s’ ambition or eyebrow could save.
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