Mixing reality TV and business: A recipe for disaster?

You’re Fired!

The above image will strike a chord with almost everyone in the United Kingdom. TV shows such as ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘Dragons’ Den’  have become increasingly popular over the past few years, with thousands eagerly awaiting who Lord Alan Sugar will utter the terrifying words “You’re Fired!” to next. The question is, are these shows actually helping business become more accessible to people or are they in fact hindering it and making a mockery of what it stands for?

As with all television media these days, there have been numerous critics, claiming the programs are unrealistic, promoting the worst side of business there is; cut throat tactics, aggressive personalities and risky gambles. The over confident, yet over irrational entrepreneurs that ‘The Apprentice’ features leave businessmen, academics and regular viewers alike wondering if these really are the business leaders of our future. ‘Dragon’s Den‘ in particular has been under intense scrutiny after allegations that the ‘investments’ are in fact short term commitments supported by loans rather than sustainable long term cash.

It has also been suggested that Alan Sugar, the panelists and even a number of the contestants are less interested about the business side to the whole thing and more about the media circus surrounding it.  Their priority is getting extra screen time and promoting not only their businesses but also themselves as a type of ‘celebrity’. With classic cringe inducing lines from contestants such as Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit if there are footprints on the moon”  and “My first word wasn’t mummy; it was money!” it’s easy to see why people think of the show as a bit of a joke.

Of course ‘The Apprentice’ has defended themselves stating they bring a sense of entrepreneurial spirit to the UK and motivate normal everyday viewers to give it a go themselves. They also claim that, while not giving out qualifications, the show develops skills along the course, showing real people they can do the same, if not better. Despite the show lacking in serious business talk (with the exception of one contestant with a passion for the word strategy) it gives a new, different and ever changing edge to the familiar reality shows that appear in our evening watch.

While I get as frustrated as the next person at the poor decisions the contestants make and question whether the show is actually genuine, I personally love the business reality TV craze. ‘The Apprentice’, which will soon be starting its 9th series, along with its spin off shows such as ‘Young Apprentice’ starting next week are always on my list of must-sees. If it showcased the actual top notch business brains in Britain, it’s highly likely that the viewing count would significantly drop, inducing nightmares among all BBC producers. Not only do I watch it as a Business Management student in a relatively poor attempt to call it ‘course research’, I mainly watch it for the pure entertainment factor it brings, taking the show and its crazy contestants with a pinch of salt.

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