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A group of contestants compete in business-related tasks to become "apprentice" to real estate mogul Donald Trump. At the end of each task, one (or occasionally more) contestant is "fired" by the man himself. The last contestant standing is "hired" and given a job in the Trump organization.
The show's first season was a ratings sensation, but ensuing seasons have never matched that success. To date, seven seasons of the standard show have aired, as well as three celebrity seasons (in which the prize was money for charity,) and an unsuccessful Spin-Off starring Martha Stewart.
A Trans Atlantic Equivalent started on The BBC in 2005, starring Lord Alan Sugar of Clapton, originally just called Sir Alan. Lord Sugar is probably best known for bringing high-quality, low-cost consumer electronics into British homes. After doing the predictable billionaire thing of pissing his money away by buying a football club (Tottenham Hotspur FC), he eked out a living making Sky TV decoder boxes, and even sold that to Sky a couple of years ago to concentrate on property (didn't that turn out well?). Compare this to The Donald, who owns half of New York. Despite this however, the UK version had a reversal of fortunes compared to the US original, starting out as a little-watched niche show and gradually evolving into one of the BBC's most popular shows by around the time of its fourth series.
It's now widely accepted to be mostly watched by people who A) like to laugh at stupid people humiliating themselves and B) don't want to admit to watching Big Brother in public. So, high viewing figures and armchair punditry all round, then.
An Irish version, starring car magnate and writer Bill Cullen, started in 2008. There are also many other international versions.
Junior Apprentice, a shorter series with ten candidates aged 16 and 17 competing for a financial prize rather than a job, aired in the UK between series 5 and 6. It proved a success and aired again after series 7, albeit renamed to Young Apprentice.
- Another Side Another Story: This happens a lot in the boardroom.
- Arch Enemy: Plenty of examples, but the Celebrity editions tend to be particularly bad for this.
- The first one memorably had Piers Morgan and Omarosa, as well as a shorter-lasting feud between Morgan and Stephen Baldwin.
- The second had a big, ugly rivalry between eventual finalists Annie Duke and Joan Rivers (and by extension, her daughter Melissa), as well as a short-lived one between Tom Green and Scott Hamilton, both of whom made early exits. One started brewing between Joan Rivers and Clint Black, though they were on good terms again by the end of the following episode.
- There was apparently a feud between Curtis Stone and Maria Kanellis in the third edition, thought it seems to have happened mostly off-screen.
- In the fourth, NeNe Leakes versus... just about everyone, really. By far the biggest of her feuds was with Star Jones, and it eventually led to NeNe quitting because she thought Trump was biased towards Star (hint: he wasn't, and Star was fired at the end of the episode where NeNe quit). On the men's team there was a brief one between Richard Hatch and Jose Canseco, though it never really came up again after the first episode. Subverted by Gary Busey; none of the other men really liked him, but that was down to him not bringing the goods in during the tasks, and he never got into a personal dispute with any of the other men.
- Aspect Montage
- Berserk Button: Trump has the ones which you'd expect, such losing money and making bad decisions. However, he really hates the phrase "white trash," as Derek found out in the LA season -- he called himself white trash in the boardroom, and was instantly fired for his trouble.
- Blatant Lies: In Season 10, where Trump confronted Anand for text-messaging his friends to help him out (which is against the rules), Anand denied it right up to the point where Trump read aloud the entire text. In an interview after he was fired, Anand claimed that he wasn't deliberately lying to Trump, but just forgot about the text since it had been three weeks previous.
- But for Me It Was Tuesday: Pepi from Season 5 was responsible for one of the show's worst-ever defeats, and when Lee chose him to be a member of his team for the final task, he was worried about what Trump would think. When meeting him for the first time since his firing though, Trump had totally forgotten that Pepi was ever a candidate on the show. George and Carolyn also couldn't remember, though they at least had something of an excuse since Pepi's team won their first task, and Bill and Ivanka had been covering for them in the task when he got fired.
- Casanova Wannabe: Raj from Season 2, demonstrated when he decided to ask out Anna Kournikova after meeting her and John McEnroe during a reward. She agreed to date him if he could beat her in a game of tennis -- and naturally he lost horribly, resulting in him having to jog half-naked around the Arthur Ashe Stadium as a forefeit. Not learning anything from this experience, he actually tried to ask out Donald Trump's receptionist after being fired, and was of course rebuffed.
- Catch Phrase: "You're fired." Inverted in each series finale to become "You're hired."
- Celebrity Edition Spin-Off: The Celebrity Apprentice. Essentially the same as a normal season of the show, only featuring celebrities, all profits from every task being donated to charity, and Trump offering a large donation to the winner's charity of choice rather than a job.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: In the tenth season, Anand texted several of his friends, asking them to hire his pedicab service at extortionately inflated rates in order to ensure that his team won. It failed on two levels -- firstly, no-one actually took him up on his offer, and secondly, Trump had been informed about what Anand had been doing a few episodes later, and, hilariously (see "Blatant Lies" just above), fired him on the spot.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: In a slightly unusual variant, displayed by pretty much everyone.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Gary Busey from the fourth celebrity edition. At least, that's what his teammates think he is.
- Confession Cam
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Many of the Celebrity Apprentice candidates turn out to be this -- in particular Piers Morgan, who watched every episode of the first five seasons (and only skipped the LA season because Trump himself told Morgan not to bother watching it) prior to coming onto the show. Gene Simmons was also shaping up to be this, after he figured out the best way of winning tasks on the show before the first-ever Celebrity task, though he flipped out and made Trump fire him after only a few episodes rather than admit he'd screwed up in one of the tasks.
- Dirty Old Man: Gary Busey in the fourth celebrity edition. After inadvertently exposing himself while appearing in his team's advert, he turned to his female co-star and asked, "Did you see Big Wednesday?" to which the actress replied that she hadn't. Busey then continued, "That's what my girlfriend calls my apparatus. Big Wednesday." Note that this was actually an Incredibly Lame Pun on Busey's part (Big Wednesday was one of his first films), but also an Incredibly Dirty Pun as well.
- Do Not Adjust Your Set / We Interrupt This Program: A special two-hour long episode in 2011 was interrupted by a special broadcast by Barack Obama, announcing that Osama bin Laden was now dead.
- Dude, Not Funny: The reaction from most of the other celebrities when Maria Kanellis made a joke relating to Curtis Stone's bathroom habits near the end of the third Celebrity Apprentice. Trump found it so not funny that he fired Maria on the spot (though she was probably about to be fired anyway).
- Elimination Catchphrase: "You're fired!"
- Epic Fail: Pretty much Omarosa's entire Apprentice career.
- In the fourth season, the two teams had to take over a Dick's Sporting Goods and promote a particular sport. One team chose golf and almost doubled their sales. The other team chose baseball, but concentrated on a demonstration instead of sales. As a result, sales of baseball equipment at the store actually dropped. Trump's response: single out the four team members responsible and fire all four of them.
- In the television advert task in the third season, the two teams were supposed to be advertising Dove bodywash. The first team created an advert that featured a bizarre mix of cucumber pornography and Ho Yay (not at the same time), while the second team's effort looked like a Monty Python parody of poorly made adverts, and contained copious amounts of Brain Bleach in the way that the soap was used. Neither advert told you anything whatsoever about the product itself. As a result, Trump declared that both teams had lost the task.
- Flanderization: Bizarrely, Omarosa seemed to do this to herself between her two appearances on the show. During her original stint, she did have the odd moment of bitchiness, but was mostly shown to be just lazy and had a bad attitude. When she popped up again on the first Celebrity Apprentice however, she had morphed into a crazed psycho-bitch who was utterly impossible to work with.
- Foiler Footage: Every single one of the contestants is filmed doing a "walk of shame" out to the cab in case they're fired. This includes the eventual winner, of course.
- Franchise Zombie: The show has had declining ratings for years but continues to get renewed. Ratings seemed to have stabilised since the introduction of the Celebrity Apprentice format, though -- in fact, the fourth celebrity edition actually managed an increase in ratings compared to the third.
- Funny Foreigner: The Russian-born Lenny from Season 5. Due to his rather more limited grasp of English he often spoke in terse one-liners, giving an effect somewhat akin to the type of Russian henchman often seen in action flicks from The Eighties. Averted by Sean and Brent from the same season -- the former (English) proved deadly serious for the most part and actually went on to win the show, while the latter (Canadian) was just a complete douchebag.
- I Warned You: In Celebrity Apprentice's first season, the Kodak Executives were upset that Gene had ditched their chosen messaging (relating to how little ink their printers used) in favor of his own "It's a Kodak World: We Just Live In It." When pressed both during the episode and during his return for the finale, Gene stated that Kodak's chosen marketing strategy was terrible. The Kodak execs disagreed and felt focusing on their inks was a winner. Several years later, the company declared bankruptcy.
- Lighter and Softer: The Martha Stewart season tried to do this, but most people agreed that the attempts to "feminize" the show ended up looking and sounding absolutely ridiculous.
- Looping Lines
- Mistaken for Racist: Ereka in Season 1, after she used the phrase "the pot calling the kettle black" in an argument with Omarosa. The saying isn't racist at all (it's actually used to accuse someone of hypocrisy), although it could be argued that Ereka showed extremely poor judgement in saying it to the only black person on her team.
- Moral Dissonance: The 2011 season of Celebrity Apprentice has two consecutive weeks where Star Jones and Dionne Warwick can be downright trouble-stirring divas who impede the abilities of their already-less-than-pinpoint project managers (Lisa Rinna the first week, Niki Taylor the next) to effectively lead the ladies, leading to the men's team winning each time and Trump placing the women on the proverbial hot seat. Lisa has to deal with Star trashing her to Trump right then and there before admitting her flaws in leadership, whereas Niki doesn't even wait for any of it before taking responsibility. Trump fired the managers and the divas stayed home free. Fans have pointed out the sad commentary in that this is Truth in Television in the corporate world.
- My Name Is Not Durwood: A non-human example happened in Season 4, when the candidates had to make floats to advertise the film Zathura. One of the team leaders mispronounced it as "Zarutha" near the start of the task, which didn't bother Jon Favreau (the film's director) too much since he'd mispronounced it himself a few times, and the team decided to stick an audio recording of the name in the float so that no-one else would make the same mistake. On the other hand, when the time came to present the floats at the end of the task, the opposing team leader kept calling the film "Zenthura" over and over again while talking to Favreau, despite the actual title being written in huge letters on the float. Face Palms all round from her team, and it ended up being partly responsible for them losing the task.
- A more traditional example happened in the first Celebrity Apprentice, where Piers Morgan constantly mispronounced Omarosa's name as "Amarosa" in an effort to annoy her.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. Season 2 had two candidates called Jennifer and two called Stacy, while Season 4 also had two Jennifers. It even extends to the judges, with Donald Trumps Sr. and Jr.
- Product Placement: Almost every task involves the contestants trying to sell/promote/improve a product.
- Reality TV Show Mansion
- Recap Episode
- Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: "You're all fired. All four are fired!
- Small Name, Big Ego: Omarosa. This one's literally true, as her full name at the time of making the series was Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, but afterwards she decided that she was famous enough to drop her surname and just go by "Omarosa".
- The same goes for the host himself. In fact, one could say it is nothing more than one big ego trip for him.
- Stereo Fibbing: In the boardroom. Note that the rest of the examples of this trope are young kids trying to get their siblings into trouble.
- Taking You with Me: Since the Season 1 finale, Omarosa has admitted that she went in with the intention of disrupting whichever team she was on and wrecking the chances of her project manager, whether she ended up on Bill or Kwame's team. Though Bill indisputably did a better job overall, Kwame's inability to control Omarosa (and failure to fire her, though apparently he wasn't informed he could do that) ended up costing him dearly.
- That's All Folks: Whichever team wins in the celebrity edition will get to watch part of the boardroom proceedings via closed circut TV, but Trump will order that the feed be cut off before he fires anyone.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Clint gave a great one to Dave in Season 10: "I choose my words precisely, and 'loopy' and 'nut' both apply to you, to a tee. You couldn’t get a job as an oompa-loompah making gobstoppers."
- The Runner Up Takes It All: The person who doesn't win is arguably in a better position than the winner since he/she will receive numerous job offers from numerous corporations.
- Those Two Guys: George and Carolyn.
- Too Much Information: Carey's line of men's swimsuits in the L.A. season got this reaction from Donald Trump, the buyers, and the other candidates (one of them even used this phrase to describe them), stemming from the fact that Carey had made them extremely revealing so as to appeal to gay men.
- Translator Buddy: Jack John for Marlee Matlin.
- Unwitting Pawn
- Very Special Episode: Two in the second Celebrity series; the first was when Dennis Rodman suffered an alcohol-induced Heroic BSOD (the culmination of several smaller such instances) and walked off the task despite being the team leader. He did come back to the boardroom where the whole team said that Rodman's alcohol abuse was destroying him, which resulted in Trump firing Rodman and telling him to get help. The second instance was in the very next episode, where Khloe Kardashian got thrown off the show after Trump discovered she had a DUI conviction, and didn't think she had shown enough contrition for it.
- Viewers are Morons: Played for laughs in the second episode of Season 5 -- Trump starts to explain at length what text messaging is, before stopping and admitting that everyone else knows exactly what text messaging is, and that he's the only person who needs someone to explain it to him, getting a few chuckles from the candidates.
- What Were They Selling Again?: In tasks that involve making television advertisements, one team usually gets carried away with making a well crafted advertisement, while failing to properly convey what they're actually advertising. You can get away with this in the US version, so long as the advert is memorable and the other team makes some screw-up with their own advert, but it's an absolute deal-breaker in the UK and Irish versions.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: For some reason, losing Project Managers often think that it's a great idea to bring back one person who they want to get fired, and one person (sometimes even two) as an "advocate" who they think will back them up in the boardroom and help to get the other person fired. This almost never works; what actually tends to happen is that the advocate gets pissed off at being placed into harm's way, and then turns on the Project Manager for doing so.
The UK version contains examples of:
- The Abridged Series: There is a one-minute summary of each episode in Lego format, which has its own tropes:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: The secretary, Frances.
- Although in later series she hardly ever appears onscreen, and is only ever heard.
- Lord Sugar Likes Ponies: Stuart Baggs was asked if he was a one trick pony. No, he replied, he wasn't a one trick pony or even a 10 trick pony, but he had a whole field of ponies, all running towards the job. Lord Sugar fell for it and did not yet fire "The Brand"!
- Arson, Murder, and Admiration: Lord Sugar muses on Melody, a candidate in Series 7:
She is ruthless. She'll walk over and tread over anybody. She'll eat them up and spit them out for her breakfast. That's what I like about her, really.
- Badass Bookworm: Arjun, the winner of the first Junior Apprentice series.
- Berserk Button: Offering an exclusivity agreement on a product you didn't create really annoys Lord Sugar. In the best case you can expect to lose all the sales made under the agreement, and in the worst case, Sugar will just flat-out disqualify your team and hand victory to the competing team.
- Better Than Sex: Ben, one of the candidates in Series 5: "For me, making money is better than sex."
- Big Yes: Tom's celebration out of the boardroom after winning Series 7.
- Black Dude Gets Fired First: Inverted in Series 1; Tim Campbell, the show's first-ever winner, was black. A similar thing happened in Series 2, where another black man, Ansell Henry was the last male candidate to be fired (he finished third overall; both the finalists that year were women).
- Played straight with Mahamed Awale in Young Apprentice.
- Blatant Lies: Happens pretty often. Probably the biggest example of this came after a catering task in Series 4, where in the final boardroom Ian Stringer flat-out denied that one of the other candidates had given a motivational talk to the rest of the team. Not only had the talk in question indeed taken place, but it was recorded on camera, and every team member including Ian himself had been there -- which the others didn't hesitate to point out.
- In Series 6, Stuart Baggs repeatedly boasted that he owned a multi-million pound telecommunications company, something that requires significant capital to set up and has to meet with stringent regulatory requirements, and this "achievement" resulted in Liz Locke being fired in favour of Stuart after the final regular task. In the interview round that followed, it turned out that what Stuart actually owned was a Wi-Fi based ISP, something that only requires a bit of cheap equipment and a £350 licence that anyone or their grandmother could obtain. Lord Sugar was so livid on finding out about this that he accused Stuart of being "full of shit" and fired him on the spot.
- The eventual winner of Series 4, Lee McQueen had a rather strange one of these on his CV, claiming to have dropped out of university after two years when in fact he had only lasted for six months. Since employers generally only care whether you have a degree or not (preferably with at least a 2:1 grade as well), it's hard to think what Lee thought he was going to achieve by putting that on his CV.
- Mahamed Awale from Young Apprentice, who in an ice-cream selling task boasted about coming up with the pirates name and theme (which he didn't, James did), openly denied being too aggressive to customers (which he actually was) and finally told Lord Sugar he made over £120 in sales (which was then revealed that he only made £62). The guy was subsequently fired that week.
- Blind Idiot Translation: In Series 3, the teams were required to sell food in France. One team commissioned a banner in French, which according to the subtitles read "Traditionals Product of English man."
- Brutal Honesty: Tim from Junior Apprentice here.
- The Cassandra: Lorraine from Series 5 is considered this by Margaret, as her intuition is more often right than wrong, but she fails to persuade the others to go along with it.
- Tom Pellereau from Series 7 has a knack for spotting the mistakes of the project manager eg the implications of the name 'EveryDog' in the Dog Food task), and yet no one takes his advice. This may explain why he lost the first five tasks, yet was not brought into the boardroom in any of them.
- Celebrity Edition: A small task organised to raise money for charity and screened over two nights.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: As with the US series, there's a lot of it going around, with several candidates turning on their team mates in the boardroom. Series 4 was particularly bad for this.
- Averted in Series 7 by Vincent. He didn't bring Jim back into the boardroom, even though Jim's idea was the real downfall of their team, and it seems this may have been out of loyalty, as he and Jim had got on very well. Vincent was fired as a result.
- Cool but Inefficient: In an outtake shown on the Series 5 "You're Hired", Sralan complains that the impressive door through which he enters the boardroom ought to have a handle.
- Deadpan Snarker: Nick Hewer has practically turned this into an art form.
- Distracted by the Sexy: As seen on You're Hired, (around 2:00 into this video), the ultra-professional Helen Milligan had a surprising moment of this during the final 'true' task of Series Seven. Midway through a conversation with Tom about their new pie restaurant, her car passed twenty firemen...
- Epic Fail: The horribly botched catering task in Season 2. Both teams hugely over-ordered ingredients, although the winning team managed to keep costs under control and just barely squeaked a profit from the task. The other team spent their entire budget, made just over half of it back and lost more than £800 (or, going by the exchange rate of the time, about US$1,500). Needless to say, Sir Alan Sugar wasn't very pleased.
- Pantsman, anyone?
- A task in Season 2 had the teams making charity calendars for Great Ormond St. children's hospital. One of the teams came up with a horribly designed calendar that was backed by an absurdly melodramatic pitch, but at least their calendars actually featured babies. The other team came up with a calendar that was themed around cats, didn't actually mention Great Ormond St. by name, had the dates printed microscopically small, and the woman giving their sales pitch repeatedly acted insulting toward the potential buyers.
- A task in Series 6 had the teams creating Personal Movie Experiences to be sold in a shopping centre. While this isn't really all that difficult if handled correctly, Stuart (See Small Name, Big Ego below), believing that he had the skill for the task, opted to be part of the sub-team that was responsible for editing the footage to separate customers and to burn the discs. One notable item was properly edited at the beginning, but had the first few seconds of the next DVD to burn at the end, resulting in another family's child appearing on the DVD just prior to the end of the disc.
- Also there was the 'Brand a Kitchen Cleaner' task from the same series, where one team opted for 'The Germ-o-nator', with the mascot being a prepubescent boy armed with the cleaner. Said cleaner had the standard warning of 'keep out of the reach of children'. Lord Sugar did not let this screw-up pass by.
- There was sufficient Epic Fail in the first three series that it got its own Spin-Off: The Apprentice: Worst Decisions Ever.
- A biscuit making task in the episode screened on 29 June 2011. One team got an order for 800,000 packs. The other got zero. That's right, ZERO. This epic fail got the project manager fired for not being in the factory when she works in that industry!
- Evil Redhead: Jenny from Season 4.
- Executive Meddling: When they were creating the British version of the show, the BBC decided that allowing multiple firings would be "too sensationalistic" and so set the series up with a strict "one firing per week" rule that the very format of the series itself made impossible to break. However, the flaw of this rule was exposed with the aforementioned catering task in the second season, in which three people all made massive mistakes that led to the titanic loss, but Sir Alan Sugar was only allowed to fire the team leader. As a result, Sugar insisted that multiple firings be allowed from the third season onwards.
- Eye Take: Frequently employed by Lord Sugar's aides, along with Aside Glances and Fascinating Eyebrows. Lord Sugar himself gets in on the act from time to time.
- Finger Framing: Done repeatedly by one candidate in the 2009 series.
- Full-Name Basis: Stuart Baggs and Ricky Martin. The former's self-given epithet "Stuart Baggs The Brand" actually stuck, and the latter, born Richard, deliberately chose to call himself Ricky Martin because people would remember it from the latino singer.
- Genius Bruiser: Series 8 winner Ricky Martin, a biochemist pro-wrestling recruitment manager.
- Goofy Suit: Occasionally deployed by a struggling team in an attempt to boost sales.
- Hannibal Lecture / "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Katie Hopkins delivered a particularly memorable one to Adam Hosker in Series 3.
"I could not have put more effort into yesterday. I fragged myself to the bone yesterday to try and make this thing work. Your reasons for bringing me in here just do not stack up. One, on a personal level, and two, on a business level. Sir Alan said he does not know about my personal stuff. He knows about it because you talked about it, because Kristina talked about it. Fine, been that, but if you want to go personal, I'll go personal. I very much strongly advise you not to take down the personal route. At a business level, you have one speed setting, and that speed setting is slow, slow, slow! Someone put the wrong speed dial in when they created you, sweetie, which is why when the phone rings, I always drop. Because I know that phone call will take forever to hear something either I know, or I can get done quicker myself. So you know what? You're just barking up the wrong tree!"
- Karren Brady delivered a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the losing team in the sixth series. The team were arguing amongst themselves in the boardroom, it grew heated, and after Lord Sugar called them 'a bunch of bloody amateurs', Karren stepped in.
"You are representing businesswomen today, one of which I am. And I have to say, it is outrageous the way you're behaving. 75% of my management team are women, and I've never come across anything like this. And I think you have to remember who you're representing in this process. Young women out there who want to have an opportunity to do this - you should be an example to them."
- Claude Littner's interview technique pretty much IS this trope. His first comment when he was a member of the panel on "You're Fired" carried on the trend:
"Well, first of all, everything was wrong. The volume was wrong, the margins were wrong, the techniques of selling were wrong. I struggle to find anything that you did right, really. But it wasn't just you -- I think it was everybody in the team who just failed to perform."
- Hurricane of Puns: Narrator Mark Halliley does this quite often, and always in the "Previously on..." segment.
- Instrumental Theme Tune / Real Song Theme Tune: "Dance of the Knights", from Prokofiev's Romeo And Juliet. Also used by the Irish version.
- Lighter and Softer: Junior/Young Apprentice. In particular, "Uncle" Lord Sugar was noticeably kinder to unsuccessful candidates.
- Malaproper: Melissa from Series 6, who gave us such gems as "my professionality" and "there's no room for maneouvrement". Even after being fired, she managed to sneak in one last malapropism, claiming that her enemies would be "retributed".
- Metaphorgotten: Jamie's complex metaphor involving cogs and wheels in the interview round of Series 6.
- Stuart Baggs (The Brand) gave us the epic "I'm not just a one-trick pony... I'm not even a ten-trick pony! I've got a whole field of ponies! All running towards the job!" Dara O'Brien ruthlessly chewed him out for such a nonsensical metaphor, before giving him a Stuart Baggs brand, so he could keep track of his ponies more easily.
- Name's the Same: Series 8 winner Ricky Martin and the Latino singer Ricky Martin. Intentionally invoked as people would easily remember the former's name through the latter.
- Nice Hat: Lucinda Ledgerwood's array of berets in series 4.
- Nobody Here but Us Statues: An outtake shown on "You're Fired!" in series 6 showed some of the candidates posing as shop dummies while running a clothing outlet in Manchester.
- Oh Crap: "Would it surprise you to know you've spent over £700 on fragrances?"
- This usually happens with multiple firings in the UK version; unlike the US version, where Donald Trump always does his multi-firings simultaneously, Sir Alan/Lord Sugar does them one at a time. Normally he decides that one candidate is no good and fires them early in the boardroom session, which causes the other candidates to look shocked but relieved at the strangely quick firing. Said looks of relief are instantly wiped off their face when Sugar tells them that someone else is going to get fired.
- One Steve Limit: Series 4 had two candidates called Jennifer. One was always referred to as Jenny to enforce the limit.
- Series 6 has a candidate titled Chris (a blond investment banker) and another titled Christopher (a Liverpudlian former marine); they are called as such by Lord Sugar yet both are invariably called Chris by the candidates.
- Averted in Young Apprentice, where there is a Harry H. and a Harry M.
- The Other Frances: As of 2008, Frances had been played by at least three actresses.
- Pet the Dog: In the first boardroom of Series 7, it became obvious that the losing project manager, Edward Hunter was ashamed of his background as an accountant. Lord Sugar rightfully blasted his blatantly incompetent leadership and fired him, but as Edward was on his way out of the boardroom, Sugar told him that there's no reason to be ashamed of what you're best at doing, even if it's being an accountant.
- Product as Superhero
- Product Placement: In the first few series, the telephones in the boardroom and the candidates' house are Amstrad Em@ilers. In general, though, attempts are made to avoid this (in fact, overt product placement was actually illegal in the UK until mid-2011) -- rather than being named, companies will be described as "a leading department store" or "a major DIY chain", and the advertising tasks are based around products created for the purpose rather than existing ones.
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Syed Ahmed, from the second season. He was brought into the boardroom five times that season, and on each occasion turned Butt Kissing into an artform, as he constantly fawned over Sir Alan Sugar, told him how wonderful he was and claimed to be from the exact same background as him. This left such an impression on Sugar that he actually told the following season's candidates not to repeat Syed's behaviour, as it wouldn't get them anywhere.
- It worked for Michael Sophocles in Series 4. Up until the task with the cars, that is. It probably helped that Michael was Genre Savvy enough to mix in appeals to his age and his good performances earlier in the series, rather than employing the blatant, outright butt-kissing that Syed did.
- Jim Eastwood's proposed "AMSmart" business in Series 7 didn't do him any favours in the final.
- Reality Show Genre Blindness: Discussed by the first candidate to be fired series 6; he had watched previous series, but still ended up making all the same mistakes -- in particular, alienating every member of his team.
- Averted by Liz during the "buy a list of ten items task" in Series 6, where she remembered from the corresponding task in Series 3 that getting all the items and coming back to the boardroom late would get less of a fine than getting back to the boardroom on time but not buying everything on the list. Unfortunately for her, it didn't matter; despite buying everything on the list, her team did such a spectacularly bad job of negotiating prices that the other team still won despite only buying 7 of the 10 items and getting massively fined as a result.
- Averted, then wonderfully subverted, in the interview stage in Series 6. This episode saw the return of Margaret Mountford to the series as one of the interviewers the candidates faced:
Margaret: Good morning.
Stuart Baggs "The Brand": (elated) Margaret! (offers hand) Nice to meet you. Stuart.
Margaret: Nice to meet you, but would you normally address an interviewer in this position by their first name when you haven't met?
Baggs: Perhaps not, I just feel like I know you, because I've seen you before.
Margaret: Yes, but, erm... you don't.
Baggs: (looks deflated) Miss Mountford.
Margaret: That's better, thank you.
- Recap Episode: The Apprentice: Why I Fired Them is shown before the final and recapitulates the series up to that point.
- Shoddy Knockoff Product: Something which can trip up the candidates during the "buy a list of ten items" challenge. In particular, the Series 4 incarnation of the task had one team happily purchasing a set of knockoff tagines in Marrakesh, with none of them thinking it in any way strange that the tagines cost a tenth of the guideline price.
- Similarly Named Works: In the 'buy ten items' challenge in Series 6, one of the items was a 'Bluebook'. Synergy spent a large portion of the challenge trying to find a copy of an old American military publication. What they actually needed was the London taxi drivers' guide.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Katie Hopkins in the third season. To be fair, she was a pretty talented worker and always put personal differences aside in the name of winning the task, but the Confession Cam inserts always showed just how monstrously huge her ego was, to the point where she even made racist insults against one of the other candidates.
- In the fourth season, the "Two Jennys," Jenny Celerier and Jennifer Maguire. Despite her constant bragging about her abilities, Celerier was either partly or directly responsible for every defeat her teams suffered during her stint on the show, and she was fired after trying to bribe a shopkeeper and lying to Sir Alan Sugar's face over the incident. Which was caught on camera (and played back to her in the boardroom). Maguire wasn't nearly as bad, just coming across as overconfident and emotionally distant, but it's fair to say she didn't live up to her self-proclaimed title as "the best salesperson in Europe."
- A particular example is series 6's Stuart Baggs: "The Brand". Everything he touches turns to sold.
- Spin-Off: The Celebrity Apprentice and The Junior Apprentice. Additionally both the UK and Irish regular versions of The Apprentice have a spin off show called The Apprentice: You're Fired which airs after the regular show and interviews whichever candidate had been fired that week.
- Tempting Fate: If, when a task is announced, a candidate says that this is their dream task or that they do it all the time in their day job, odds are good that by the end of the episode they'll be in the taxi on their way home.
- Those Two Guys: Deadpan Snarkers Nick and Margaret.
- 20% More Awesome: Lord Sugar got so tired of candidates claiming they would "give 110%" that he told them not to use the phrase.
- The Unintelligible: Edward Hunter from Series 7 tended to be this, mostly due to his habit of speaking in sentence fragments and non-sequiturs. He even did it several times during his appearance on You're Fired!, much to the amusement of the panel.
- Unwitting Pawn: In the interviews round, Lee McQueen was asked by one interviewer to do his "Reverse Pterodactyl" impression. Lee obliged -- only to be told that he was an unprofessional douchebag, and that if he had been treating the interview at all seriously he would have refused to do the impression. Not that it stopped Lee from winning that series, though.
- What Were They Selling Again?: Even moreso than in the US edition, mostly due to the contestants being Wrong Genre Savvy. Whereas the US candidates are advertising for major companies and can afford to make the adverts more artistic at the expense of explaining what the product is, the UK candidates have to advertise brand new products and do a lot more in the way of informing potential customers about the products. This almost invariably results in one team coming up with a better advert than the other, but losing because it doesn't inform the customer well enough. Other variations include the wrong aspect of the product being advertised (Series 2), or the team creating a brand which works against the product (Series 5 and 7).
- Averted in Young Apprentice, of all places. The 2011 edition had both the teams' adverts make it clear what was being advertised, finally resulting in an instance where the losers simply had the worst advert.
- With This Herring: The traditional "find a list of ten items with only the phone directory to help you" task comes across increasingly like this, with Lord Sugar even going so far as to apologise to the 2011 Young Apprentice candidates for having to rely on such outdated research methods.
- Worthy Opponent: Yasmina and Debra in series 5 express this attitude of each other in episode 10, with Yasmina admitting she'd hire Debra for her organisation, and Debra saying Yasmina was the only other candidate comparable to her.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: The whole "bring back an advocate" thing has largely been averted by UK candidates, after Lindsay's attempt at doing this in the second episode of Series 1 blew up spectacularly in her face -- mostly because she forgot to actually tell her intended advocate, Miriam, that she was supposed to be criticising Adele (who Lindsay wanted to be fired) and not Lindsay herself. The only other candidate to commit this mistake was Ghazal from Series 3, who decided to bring back Katie in an effort to get Naomi fired, but completely undermined her own idea by going on and on about how awesome Katie was, thereby making her plan obvious.
The Irish version contains examples of:
- Epic Fail: In Season 3 the two teams were tasked with creating a calendar celebrating the Ford Fiesta. The winning team ended up with an 11 month calendar (they ran out of time before reaching December) while the other side submitted a calendar that didn't mention either Ford or the Fiesta and gave the wrong website address.
- Funny Foreigner: Panos Zambetakis from Season 3; a camp, gay Greek ex-soldier with a phobia about power tools who rapidly became a fan favourite (though in fact he proved quite capable and made it to the interview stage).
- I Was Young and Needed the Money: During the interview round, Michelle Massey, eventual winner of Season 3 was revealed to not only be a former model (which was already known) but also to have interviewed to be a hostess on the Playboy channel.
- My Nayme Is: Aoiffe Madden from Season 2 and Cahal Heapes from Season 3 (for non Irish viewers, Aoife is much more usually spelled with one 'f' and Cathal comes with a 't'.)
- Product Placement: Constantly used, perhaps to an even greater degree than the US version.
- Reality TV Show Mansion: Perhaps the ultimate example in any version of the The Apprentice - not because it is more elaborate but because it gets an entire Spin-Off devoted to the shenanigans going on inside (see below.)
- Small Name, Big Ego: Season 2's Stephen Higgins, who proclaimed himself the "brightest man of [his] generation".
- Spin-Off: The Apprentice: At Home.