Before the dawn of reality D-lister sludge's Celebrity Apprentice, there was another, better show called just The Apprentice. Although it eventually lost its luster, the original Apprentice was a sensation, with a savvy and engaging cast, educational tasks, and awesome rewards (remember the helicopter ride around NYC???), and it launched the career of affable Bill Rancic. The Apprentice was so good that creator Mark Burnett started a similar version in the UK, with billionaire Sir Alan Sugar standing in for Trump. Sugar is not exactly sweet. He is a much more serious, less flamboyant version of Trump. He's intimidating, thought not really frightening. "I don't like liars, I don’t like cheats. I don’t like bullshitters, I don’t like schmoozers, I don’t like arse-lickers," he tells the contestants on their first day. Win on your own merits, he explains, not on smoke and mirrors.
If you thought the U.S. version was good, you'll love the British version, which follows a more documentary format, avoids sensation, and has more interesting, difficult, and educational tasks (Aren't British versions often better?). Those tasks include selling flowers, designing a toy for grade schoolers, working on the floor at Harrod's, and going on a scavenger hunt around London to buy a list of items as cheaply as possible, like bowler hats and a mattress. The boardroom drama also doesn't drag on as much as Trump's boardrooms do, so we spend less time watching the contestants bicker and more on the cool tasks. Sugar actually really hates when they don't get along and tries to stop their fighting, not encourage it, which is refreshing.
Saira Khan, in particular, is an aggressive and scrappy Environmental Manager who is the first business woman in her family.
She's just downright fun to watch, even when she grates on your nerves. After a tough negotiation for a T.V. box, she is able to get it for free by speaking in her native Kashmiri with the salesman. "That's how I get away with murder," she quips in her delightful British accent. Reality T.V. "character" gold. Love 'er.
Check out The Apprentice UK, and start with Saira's season, season one, which aired in 2005. Almost all the seasons of the UK version are available on Youtube. One of the few reality T.V. shows worth watching these days.