The Apprentice: 14 Behind The Scenes Secrets From The Show

Lord Sugar wasn't top choice for The Apprentice job. And candidates have their credit cards taken away from them...

Simon Brew
14 . 10 . 15

The Apprentice is back on British television screens, with Lord Alan Sugar again choosing from one lucky (?) winner from a bunch of new candidates. But while watching the show, you may want to bear a few of its behind the scenes secrets in mind...

1. IT'S NOT A REAL BOARDROOM

The boardroom used in The Apprentice isn't Lord Sugar's actual boardroom. Instead, those scenes are shot in a studio, that can accommodate up to 20+ people, cameras and film crew at the same time.

2. LORD SUGAR WASN'T FIRST CHOICE TO STAR

Before the-then Sir Alan Sugar was chosen to headline the BBC's take on The Apprentice, the late Felix Dennis - founder of the company that publishes Mental Floss - turned the job down.

As he told The Independent, "Because I'd been shown Donald Trump, shouting and screaming in America, I very correctly said to them 'thank you very much for such a kind offer, but I don't think this is for me.' Because believe me, I love talent, the money that talent makes me and the reflected glory of the talent that works for me. I couldn't stand standing in front of the talent saying, 'You're fired, you bastard.' It wouldn't be my style".

Also believed to have been approached were Philip Green and Michael O'Leary.

3. THE LEAVING IN A TAXI SCENES ARE SHOT IN ADVANCE

That moment when a candidate is fired, then departs in a cab? It doesn't happen in that order. Candidates have their getting into a taxi scenes filmed in advance. It tends to be one of the first things filmed, in fact. Then, post-firing, they're put back in a cab for a trip around the block whilst their impromptu exit interview is filmed.

4. CANDIDATES ARE CUT OFF FROM THE WORLD

Those taking part in The Apprentice have to hand in their electronic communications devices, and really do have to live together in a house for weeks. They get a single 10 minute phone call home every week. Newspapers, television and the internet are all off-limits too. Even credit cards are taken away. Rare trips outside the house are supervised.

5. BOARDROOM SCENES TAKE HOURS TO FILM

Whilst the boardroom sequences you see in the finished programme last around 20 minutes, the process is far more gruelling. Candidates are generally in the boardroom for around three hours at a time - and in the early stages, even longer than that. As one candidate, Yasmina Siadatan, told Hello, "if you're in the firing line, you could have spent your whole day fighting for your life in there. And yes – it's as terrifying as it looks".

6. LORD SUGAR KEEPS IN TOUCH WITH (SOME) FORMER CANDIDATES

Whether they won or not, Lord Sugar keeps to his word to stay close to many of his candidates. For instance, Ben Fowler, who was fired from Junior Apprentice after week two in 2011, runs a small chain of coffee shops - www.bennoscoffee.co.uk - and has revealed that Sugar still offers help and support.

7. THERE'S A LOT OF FILMING FOR ONE HOUR OF TELLY

A single episode of The Apprentice can involve up to 300 hours of filming - which then needs to be tightly edited down to under one hour for transmission.

8. MORE THAN ONE ENDING IS USUALLY FILMED

Filming on The Apprentice is completed many months before you see the show on TV screens, and thus candidates are bound by tight confidentiality clauses, to make sure they don't let any cats out of bags.

Furthermore, it's generally protocol now for the show to film more than one ending for the very last episode. Thus, while the final boardroom scenes are shot well in advance, the winners don't know they've won until the show goes out.

9. THERE'S MORE THAN ONE CAFE WHERE THE LOSERS ARE FILMED

As the winning team heads off for their treat at the end of a task, the losing side head off to a cafe for a pre-boardroom post-mortem. Yet it's actually two cafes that are used. As ex-Apprentice star Alex Mills told Wales Online, one is called The Bridge, and is in west London. The other is La Cabana 2, in north London.

10. THE FILMING IS PACKED TIGHTLY

Candidates can expect to shoot up to three tasks in a week, including the requisite boardroom scenes. There's very little downtime between tasks, with a day off at best.

11. BRANDED CLOTHING ISN'T ALLOWED

Strict rules govern product placement and advertising on the BBC, and thus candidates on the show can't wear overtly branded clothing, and have to be wary about what businesses they approach for help with their tasks.

12. CANDIDATES GET MORE DETAILED TASKS THAN WE SEE

It's easy from our armchairs: design this, make that, promote the other. But in reality, each team on The Apprentice gets a detailed dossier breaking down every task, which puts significant restrictions on them. This may include ingredients that must be used, budget limits and such like, that aren't always declared to viewers. Also, some decisions about how to approach a task may also have been made for them, even if this is not clear on screen.

13. FILMING PERMISSION CONSTANTLY NEED TO GAINED

One big obstacle facing candidates is that if they want to visit and transact with certain businesses and stores, the production team needs to get specific permission from the owners concerned beforehand. This slows things down, often significantly. Given that time pressure is generally accepted as being the biggest challenge on the show, it no doubt does wonders for the stress levels of all concerned.

14. THE BUILDINGS USED AT THE START OF THE SHOW ARE UNRELATED

One last thing. That flyby of the London skyline at the start of each episode of The Apprentice? Well, it's aerial footage of assorted skyscrapers in London, that each have one thing in common: Lord Sugar doesn't work in any of them, and none of his businesses are based there.

Images: BBC.