In the third series of The Apprentice, Sir Alan Sugar further develops his iconic status as business leader and TV celebrity. But is he acting out the Frankenstein myth, and will he be remembered only for the monster he created?
Update (April 24th 2007)
Dan, and others suggested (in the comments) the possibility of a ‘turned table’ game in which Alan Sugar and others are successively fired. The application of avatars also cropped up in a blog by Paul Carruthers.
4 pm Wednesday March 28th. Message from the pink one. Would I be willing to give a telephone interview about The Apprentice? Do Bears trade in the markets? Yes, I would be willing to give an interview.
This is how it works. The Business Journalist has a list of contacts, and calls around for a few comments that can be knitted together for an article. Mostly the journalist wants to embellish a story-line. Is Alan Sugar a good role model? Is the series just another version of reality TV? Is reality TV unreality TV? The bulk of the final article may well have been assembled – perhaps in an earlier face-to-face interview, or developed from a pre-view of a TV show. The conversation between journo and quote-provider is usually quite pleasant. The discussion may even respect the convention that you are been offered a chance to express your views to a mass audience. Later you will find whether you supplied the sort of quote that the interviewer was looking for.
In pre-blog days, the rest of the discussion would never have been reported. But that was then. Here’s what I would have liked to seen published in a fully reported interview. My reasonably crafted replies here are of course far more coherent than the spluttering efforts I might have made at the time.
Journalist: The Apprentice is starting another series tonight. I’m writing a piece for the Financial Tube and wondered if you had any comment about the programme
Self: Yes. I’m with Digby Jones on this one. He thinks Alan Sugar is a bad role model for a business leader. So do I.
Journalist: Why do you think that?
Self: Alan Sugar is a successful businessman. But the structure of the programme gives a false one-dimensional picture of him acting as an old-fashioned alpha-male ..
[Journalist asks another question but I go on with the earlier answer]
.. He has to act as he does. There are the scenes where people are sycophantic about him, then they get the victim part in the scene where he has do his catch phrase ‘you’re fired’.
Journalist: [possibly asking the question again. The one I hadn’t answered]: What do you mean by an old-fashioned alpha male? Isn’t he typical of successful business leaders:
Self: There are still successful alpha-male leaders. They are increasingly being compared unfavourably for similarities with violent animal group behaviors such as the so-called Mandrill Management. You find them particularly in certain jungle industries. Media – film tycoons, barrow-boys. [And newspaper magnates, but I might not have mentioned that. I have in the past, a few times. If the journalists get it, they don’t publish it. Can’t think why.] But we need to show other models of business leaders. People who can help in tricky negotiations – get our people out of Iran at present, get politicians around a table in Northern Ireland.
Journalist: Have you ever seen the programme?
Self: A few times. But I’ve stopped now. I can watch kids behaving badly in my day job. I don’t want to switch on and watch a phonier version of business dynamics at night.
I respect Sir Alan’s business success. But that’s something else. He’s been sucked into a different game here. There is every chance that he will eventually be remembered by a catch-phrase ‘you’re fired’. I’m not bothered about that.
We ban violence from our screens on the assumption it leads to copycat behaviour. I’m not for taking our TV without Sugar, but I don’t like the way it reinforces the idea that a successful boss has to be a bully. Is this the image of the charismatic leader we aspire to? The leaders we help create and deserve?