Even The Apprentice is feeling the recession

the launch it was revealed that one
male contestant pulled out of the factual reality series the night
before filming because he could not face leaving his family.

Only 15 contestants start the series, including two international contestants for the first time.

at the launch Sugar said the production team had
been conscious of reflecting the recession.

“As we go
through the series you will see some shows that are specifically made
towards recognition of what difficult times we are in,” he said. “At
the moment, people are having to consider whether they can go on
holiday and so there is one episode about reinvigorating one of our
seaside towns.”

The episode – to be aired on BBC1 on
Wednesday 25 March – will see the hapless contestants go to Margate to
renovate part of the town. In another instalment, instead of the
traditional challenge of promoting a new foreign product, the
contestants will instead undertake a “buy British” challenge where they
help promote small businesses.

“The apprentices always think they
can second guess us a bit and imagine they are going on some exotic
trip, but this time they ended up in Manchester and Liverpool, where
they were set a task of helping local small businesses to sell their
merchandise to other businesses,” Sugar said.

BBC1 controller Jay
Hunt said: “In the current economic climate, The Apprentice has never
seemed more relevant. That emphasis on sheer hard graft seems more
appropriate than ever before.”

Asked if it was harder to be an
apprentice in a recession, Sugar said: “Yes … in this day and age
people are not being recruited. Companies are not taking on people that
can get lost in the background and be part of some unknown part of the
management. It’s much, much tougher out there.

“The person that comes on board in the end is going to have to do some work.”

mention is made of Sugar’s worth at the beginning of the series,
although the press release accompanying the show quoted the 2007 Sunday
Times Rich List as saying his wealth was valued at £830m.

Show executives also confirmed the programme’s budget had been frozen.

described the unnamed male contestant who had decided not to take part
as a “bottler”, telling the others who were taking part in the first
episode: “Someone has already bottled it. You can’t even blame me
because I have never met him. Business is about pressure. Are you tough
enough to put up with it because matey wasn’t.”

contestant who dropped out of the show has recorded an interview which
is expected to be aired on the BBC2 spin-off show, You’re Fired!, next

Among this year’s candidates to win a top job with
Sugar are a lawyer, an ex-professional footballer, a former chess
champion and a lookalike of Welsh rugby player Gavin Henson. Sugar’s
aides, Margaret Mountford and Nick Hewer, also return.

year’s winner, Lee McQueen, is still working for Sugar developing
digital display advertising. “He is getting on very well,” Sugar said.
“He is doing a very good job.”

Sugar said he was amazed that the
candidates continued to make the same mistakes as in previous series.
“This being the fifth series and having the benefit of seeing the
previous four, you would think they would come in well armed with what
not to do,” he said.

“But they still don’t know what to do and they don’t learn the lessons.”

said he was hopeful of a sixth series, but said it was “very much down
to whether the punters really like the product … at the end of the
day the customers are the ones that will decide whether it’s any good
or not.”

A full list of current candidates taking part in this series can be found here