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The Apprentice is a British reality television series in which a group of aspiring young businessmen and women compete for the chance to work with the British business magnate Lord Sugar (previously known as "Sir Alan Sugar"). In series one to six, the prize was a £100,000-a-year job as an "apprentice" to Sugar, and winners went on to work at Amstrad, an electronics manufacturing company founded by Sugar (but since sold to BSkyB), or one of Sugar's other companies, Viglen, Amsprop or Amshold. In series seven, the prize changed to a £250,000 investment in a business of the candidate's creation, with Lord Sugar as a 50% owner.
The Apprentice, billed as a "job interview from hell", is very similar in format to the American series of the same name, which stars entrepreneur Donald Trump. Both American and British versions of The Apprentice are produced by Mark Burnett.
The first and second series aired on BBC Two in 2005 and 2006 respectively and the third series ran on BBC One in early 2007, the success of which led the BBC to commission two more series. The fourth series began in March 2008 and the fifth in March 2009. A sixth series ran from October to December 2010, the seventh series ran from May to July 2011, and the eighth series started airing on 21 March 2012. The ninth series began on 7 May 2013, with a tenth series commissioned for 2014.
The programme has spawned three spin-offs, The Apprentice: You're Fired! (a studio-based programme which acts as a companion to the regular series), plus celebrity versions for Comic Relief and Sport Relief. Occasional 60-minute special episodes, often concentrating on particular candidates and their stories, also air. Apprentice-related merchandising includes a magazine, podcast, and official books. The programme has led other production companies to produce shows that follow a similar format, including Tycoon, Beat the Boss. and Election. It has also been compared to another BBC series, Dragons' Den.
Open auditions and interviews are held across the country before a series begins, attracting thousands of applicants. About 75 candidates are called back for a second round in London, for assessment in groups, asked to do various exercises to test their business skills and how they work in a team. After this, between 20 to 30 candidates are assessed by a psychologist, references are taken and other checks made. It is from this group that the final line-up is chosen. The first and second series featured 14 candidates, increased to 16 from the third series onwards. The fifth series was also meant to have 16 candidates, but went ahead with only 15 after a last-minute withdrawal. The BBC Comedy website published a spoof video at the beginning of Series 6 revealing more about the candidate selection process.
The successful candidates are are split into two teams, initially by gender, and each team chooses a team name. The teams are then given a series of business-themed tasks designed to test their skills in salesmanship, negotiation, requisitioning, leadership, teamwork and organisation, with each episode covering a single task. At the start of each episode, the teams each choose a project manager to act as the team leader for the duration of the task, though in later episodes the project managers are sometimes nominated by Sugar himself. The teams are followed in the execution of their tasks by Lord Sugar's advisers, Nick Hewer and Karren Brady. As candidate numbers are whittled down, the composition of the teams is periodically rearranged by Sugar.
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