British Reality TV Has An Age Problem

The new series of The Apprentice has received backlash over a total lack of age diversity - but is this just the mould now?

The Apprentice.

by Aaliyah Harry |

Arguably the most popular British reality TV show is Love Island: it has huge global success, leading to spin-offs all over the world. The shows are populated with young, attractive contestants generally no older than 25: as if you aren’t worthy of looking for love on screen beyond that. Love Island is one thing, but The Apprentice has typically been about one thing: eccentric, often highly unlikeable, contestants desperate to work with Alan Sugar. Age wasn’t a vital stat. Yet viewers of the beloved BBC reality show The Apprentice think that has all changed - and they are not impressed.

After the first episode of the latest series aired on Thursday night - after a two-year delay due to COVID-19 - there was a stir on social media about the total lack of age diversity. After the line-up of contestants was revealed, the show was called out for its lack of inclusion across all age ranges. One tweet even labelled this year's line up, ‘Love Island in suits.’ For a show that has a history of often being very inclusive in representing people across all ages, it is understandable why viewers are pointing out the changing format.

Looking closer into the line-up of contestants, the average age is 30, with over half of the contestants in their twenties. There are only two contestants in their forties. Fans of the show have pointed out that many of them are already semi-Instagram famous - could they be on a cynical quest for more fame rather than any dealings with Lord Sugar?

According to research by the Centre for Ageing Business, only three in ten believe TV, film and advertising make old age seem exciting and full of potential, with nearly as many believing it makes old age seem depressing with limited opportunities.

Reality TV isn’t exclusively made for young people to watch, and The Apprentice was a show that exemplified just that.

Rather than following the Love Island mould, why not let viewers follow the stories of a variety of contestants?

The Apprentice is usually good at showing how success can also come at a later age and the idea that there is no linear timeline. Over the years the show has made strides across areas of diversity, which is brilliant but hopefully the essence of the show isn’t eventually completely lost: it’s been responsible for some of the best reality TV moments in history over the years.

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