The Apprentice (BBC1, 9pm) ****

LORD Sugar’s annual search for an apprentice who fast disappears into obscurity took an unexpected turn last night. Instead of sending 16 candidates to invent a new crisp flavour or flog exercise bikes on a shopping channel, the Amstrad king told them to sort out Brexit.

Okay, he didn’t, but really, how much worse could they do?

He did, in fact, send them to Cape Town to run tourist trips, which was a lovely surprise for everyone considering they usually don’t need to bring their passports to the rendezvous until near the end of the series, when there are fewer of them and it is cheaper to go.

Ranging in age from 19 to 36, the class of 2019 includes the usual numpties - “You haven’t seen hell till you’ve seen me mad”; “I love business more than sharks love blood”, etc - with one or two serious candidates thrown in to lend a semblance of credibility to the programme, now in its 15th series.

This year’s villain, because there always has to be one, is a good ‘un, as in guaranteed to drive the country mad by week three. Meet Lottie the librarian, a woman so bossy she makes Donald Trump seem like he has confidence issues. “Though she be but little she is fierce,” was her way of introducing herself.

“Midsummer Night’s Dream, act three, scene two,” barked Sugar.

“I’d have to look it up,” said Lottie, librarian to the last.

“I’ve looked it up,” roared the boss. Case and Shakespeare anthology closed.

Also notable is Souleyman Bah, para athlete and motivational speaker, who has retina pigmentosa, and Ryan Mark-Parsons, introduced as a “luxury womenswear consultant”, which turned out to mean he worked at Harrods.

In South Africa the teams split into the “boys” and “girls”. Bond might have finally gone PC and ditched “girls”, but The Apprentice is grimly hanging in there. The women decided to put on a wine tour because Lottie knew a lot about wine, telling us endlessly that she worked in “the UK’s best wine bar”.

The men went on safari, promising punters, against the advice of experts (what do they know, right Govey?), that they would see the big five: elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and buffalo. Tour leader Riyonn proclaimed elephants up ahead. Slight problem: they were rhinos. “My apologies,” he said, “I haven’t got my glasses on.” The search for Sir David Attenborough’s replacement goes on.

After a struggle selling tickets, the women finally made it to the winery, where a visit to the cellar was promised. Following a Spinal Tap-style tour around every other room they had to admit defeat in finding it. It was a disaster, which only Lottie, leading the tasting session, could rescue. Did she? You bet.

It was tough going for the men, too. “We ain’t a bunch of idiots are we?” asked Thomas, whose London accent is so thick he makes Lord Sugar sound like Jacob Rees-Mogg. Well, Thomas, that is kind of how this thing works. You have to hand it to the Apprentice producers: they have a formula and stick to it like jam on a mohair jumper. The rest is down to snappy editing.

Why the first episode was set to run an extra five minutes was a mystery, as there did not seem to be anything new. But then came the boardroom showdown and a genuinely dramatic moment when someone’s temper got the better of them. Just goes to show that there is life in the old series yet. Bring on Lottie versus Karren!