Tag Archives: business

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

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