Tag Archives: BBC

The Apprentice: the reality behind reality TV

28 Jan

Shibby in the aftermath of his three weeks of reality TV fame.

As a fan of The Apprentice, I wanted to test my interviewing skills on Sir Alan – sorry, Lord Sugar (why does that sound like the name of a porn magnate?). However, apparently my journo credentials aren’t up there yet, so I ended up with Shibby Robati.

“Who?” I hear you ask. You know the guy – the one who got fired in Week 3 for turning up to a client with only 16 bread rolls instead of the 1,000 ordered. The one whose level-headed response to this crisis was: “Tell them to go on the Atkins diet”. The one whose soundbite – “My first word wasn’t ‘mummy’, it was ‘money’” – was replayed endlessly, perhaps as a warning to other budding reality show stars that, if it sounds witty in your head, it will probably come across as moronic on TV.

When I actually meet Shibby in the lobby of the Guildford Spectrum leisure centre (it’s a glamorous job), I encounter a down-to-earth guy who doesn’t fit his mildly ludicrous on-screen persona. Turning up in football kit in preparation for a kick-about with his old school chums, the 27-year-old former surgeon is keen to emphasise that he and fellow Apprentice candidates were “credible business people from a credible business background”.

“No-one goes in there thinking they’re just going to be on TV”, he says. “I approached the whole thing as a job opportunity. There’s a thorough criteria and selection process that can fish out the bad apples pretty quickly”.

Shibby is vehemently defensive of the show’s integrity: “Obviously you’re under extreme pressure and you’re quite vulnerable in the house. But the camera never lies. No-one was coerced into saying anything.”

He does admit, however, that while it is “fundamentally a business programme”, The Apprentice does have “TV obligations”:

“The balance was to find credible business people who also fit the role on TV.”

Of the controversial episode where a strong-but-dull candidate, Liz Locke, was fired, allowing a more ratings-winning character, Stuart ‘The Brand’ Baggs, to stay in, Shibby says: “You could argue it was a TV decision rather than a business decision”.

The manipulation for television was also evident in how the BBC played up Shibby’s northern roots. Despite having moved at age three to Guildford where he still lives and works today, he was described on the show as being from Leeds because the programme-makers didn’t want the candidates to seem like a collection of Southerners.

Each series of The Apprentice films two versions of the final results show, so that no-one knows who the actual winner is until the finalé is aired. The winners also tend to leave the job after six months or so, in spite of gushing in the boardroom about how they want to work for Sir-alun/Lord Sugar of Battersea until their dying day.

So, as with the Deloitte graduate scheme, you pretend that your life-long dream is to get the job, but once you’re hired, you whack it onto your CV and scamper off to do something better.

Shibby is in no doubt that the experience boosted his CV. “Since The Apprentice, I’ve had three promising job prospects from big organisations.”

Maybe this is just as well. His hopes that the show would raise his profile enough to land a more prominent role within his community – such as speaking in schools or business seminars – have not been realised. The faded reality TV ‘star’ who confesses to a “short shelf-life” is already past his sell-by date: even the Guildford local press consider him “old news”. Still, he made it onto this blog, which must count for something, right?…

By Luxmy Gopal


New year’s resolution for 2011? Avoid WMDs

20 Dec

What do Fifa corruption, tuition fees and Wikileaks have in common? They were all clouded, distorted, and overshadowed by Weapons of Mass Distraction.  You are as much a victim of these WMDs as I am.

The original WMDs – the Weapons of Mass Destruction – were themselves also Weapons of Mass Distraction back in 2002.  In an attempt to strengthen grounds for the illegal invasion of Iraq, Blair’s government claimed that Saddam had developed weapons that could wipe out everything we hold dear – and the population of Staines – in less than the time it takes to get to the front of a Post Office queue.

Instead of questioning whether that would justify the winless death-fest that was the Iraq War, attention centred on how the BBC could dare accuse the government of ‘sexing up’ the report. This diversion was partly thanks to spin doctor Alastair Campbell, proud owner of a vast weaponry of mass distraction.

Weapons of Mass Distraction (WMDs) are as prevalent today as they were then.  When Panorama exposed bribery by Fifa bosses, WMDs helped to divert people from condemning the institutional corruption to instead just whinging about how the media scuppered our chances.

The bigger picture hidden by those WMDs?  Two votes cost us £15million.  Compare this sporting spending spree with the cuts to school sports funding, which will leave us with yet more generations of blobby kids becoming fatter than the sofas that encase them (and no world cup hosting in sight).

Reporting of the student protests showed an even greater use of WMDs. British youths finally peeled themselves away from watching Deal or No Deal to become politically active in the cold and snow, protesting against education cuts and tuition fee increases.  What did WMDs do? Turned us into tutting disapprovers, shaking our heads at footage which obsessively focused on the violent minority.

This violent minority included people who broke some windows, people who splodged paint onto the royal car, people who actually prodded Camilla with a stick (surely that should be a national sport?), and a disabled bloke in a wheelchair. In an interview with him, BBC newsreader Ben Brown actually asked Jody McIntyre whether he had provoked the police into dragging him onto the ground, by “wheeling himself towards them”.  You can imagine the fear in the interviewer’s eyes, probably brought on by nightmares involving the Paralympic basketball team rolling their wheelchairs en masse in his direction.

The focal talking point was how unruly those yobs were, rather than questioning why the generation will have to pay more for less (up to triple the tuition fees for an education system lacerated with brutal funding cuts). It is the equivalent of making someone pay Fortnum & Mason prices for a trolley of Iceland shopping.

Finally, the worst use of WMDs is in the focus on Julian Assange’s sexual assault allegations to divert from the content of the Wikileak cables. Papers were plastered with news of his alleged assault (which wouldn’t classify as rape in this country), instead of investigating the cables’ claims that the U.S. ignored torture in Iraq and that drug company Pfizer tried to blackmail their way out of dodgy clinical trials. Rather than holding our leaders to account, we’re been tasered by these WMDs – shooting the messenger, whose biggest crimes seem to be omitting to use protection and being so bad in bed that the woman actually stayed asleep through his efforts. Unforgiveable.

These WMDs have attacked our better judgment and diverted us from the bigger picture. It’s like hearing someone shout, “There’s a man-eating lion behind you!” and responding with outrage at the tone of his voice, rather than dealing with your impending carnivorous annihilation.

So, make your 2011 new year’s resolution to evade the power of WMDs, which currently pose a far greater threat to our society than any of Saddam’s weapons ever did.

Luxmy Gopal