It's an unusual time to launch The Apprentice, but because of a little thing called the World Cup, this year's series has been pushed back to the autumn from its usual late spring slot.
This is the biggest year yet for the show as it celebrates its tenth year on the small screen.
When it launched back in 2005, the show averaged 2.6m viewers which rose to 4.43m and then 5.6m for the third series in 2007. And from 2008 onwards each series has never averaged less than 7.2 million and peaked in 2011 with 8.8m, so it's clear to see that it's a show that a lot of people look forward to and enjoy.
As always Lord Sugar is back with his trusted advisors Nick Hewer and Karren Brady. This morning I was invited along to the press launch for the series to find out more about what's in store for the shows tenth series which launches with a double-bill at 9pm on Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th October and then the series will play out every Wednesday evening after that.
The first thing to note is that there are more candidates than ever, a massive 20 people will be fighting for a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar, who will act as a 50% owner for a business of the candidate's choice.
As ever they're a colourful bunch of characters, and those who enjoy those classic one-liners will not be disappointed. Over twelve weeks, the 20 candidates must compete to stay out of the firing line in a bid to win the £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar by proving their skills in sales, creativity, leadership, strategy and business insight in a series of testing tasks. As always, they all think they can win... but there can only be one winner, and 19 losers.
What with there being more contestants than ever, at the start of the first episode Lord Sugar reveals:
"Now, this is the tenth year that we have been in this boardroom, and so on this special occasion I’m going to start things off a little bit differently. What I’ve decided to do is to kick off with 20 candidates, 10 boys and 10 girls. That’s the good news. Here’s possibly not such good news. The process will still last 12 weeks. That means that on certain occasions I may decide to dispose of more than one candidate at a time. Be prepared."
He also makes it very clear right from the get go about what the offer on the table is, "This deal is all about getting a £250,000 injection into a company that both of us will own on a 50/50 basis. I won’t be working, you will be working. I will be advising and mentoring."
The first episode gets off to a cracking start with some more brilliant one-liners from the candidates, to give you an idea of what to expect one candidate boasts "I'm not arrogant, because what I'm saying is all true." whilst another declares "The world is full of way too many wafflers!" - make of that what you will. There's also one candidate who describes himself as the "The Wolf of Wall Street" which after the first task Lord Sugar is quick to change to "The Poodle of Petticoat Lane." Classic Lord Sugar.
Early favourites? It's too early to tell and that's the beauty of The Apprentice, you never really know until the final few weeks who the strongest candidates are. One things for certain though, this lot are hungrier than ever and will let nothing stand in their way. When you're watching the first episode though, I would say to look out for two gates... lemon gate, and cheese gate. No. Really.
One of my favourite parts of any series is right at the beginning when the candidates are split into boys and girls and they then go away and come up with a team name... I won't spoil it for you and tell you what they settled on, but some of the early contenders were Firepower and Grafters!
For the first challenge, the candidates have to sell products which have all appeared in the first task of the last nine series. These products include sausages, flowers, coffee and fruit. They're given a little bit of cash to help them on their way, but this task is all about making as much money as possible, not spending it.
As first tasks go, it's a pretty strong one, and very entertaining. You can learn a lot about the candidates based on the first task with some clear leaders, not necessarily winners, already emerging.
At the launch for series 10, I asked Lord Sugar whether having 20 candidates this time around has changed the dynamic of the show at all, to which he replied with:
"First of all, the reason we did it was because it was the tenth series, and we wanted to give a few more people a bit of a chance. It's always very very difficult when we get down to the candidate selection, because there are so many good candidates for various reasons. So we thought, quite frankly at the eleventh hour that perhaps for the tenth anniversary we would give it a try."
You will see throughout the course of the series that the flexibility that I had comes into play. Because obviously we have to end up with two candidates at the end, and I'm very confident that you'll find the flexibility came in useful, at the right time and for the right reasons.
Would he do it again? "It was difficult with 20 candidates, I don't think we'll do it again, maybe on the 20th series we'll have 40!" with Karren adding that "It was a bit manic on the road!"
Nick Hewer chipped in and said "It makes it very difficult for the people following them You try and follow 10 people for three days, and write down everything that everybody says. Work out if what was said was honest is tough... please don't do that again!"
He also added that "The ones that win are the ones that learn. Those are the winners, and they creep through. In the first series, I think Tim we didn't spot until about week ten, and suddenly he was two lengths ahead."
So what else can the candidates come to expect for the rest of the series? Well after ten years the tasks have fully stepped into the 21st century with one week the candidates being asked to design an innovative wearable technology product (don't think Apple will need to be worried just yet!) and another week the two teams must create a YouTube channel.Then there's the usual mix of coming up with a brand, this year they're required to launch their own soft drinks brand and new board game... but in a world filled with apps, will anyone really invest in a board game?
But the two words none of the contestants want to hear are "You're fired!" and they certainly don't want to see Lord Sugar's finger pointing towards them! That's pretty much all you need to know for now, so without further adieu, let the one liners, eye-rolling and finger pointing begin...Before I go, I will leave you with my favourite line of the first episode, which is - "It's not just going to be a potato. It's going to be an experience!"