ANYONE who reads this column on a regular basis knows the love that is held for The Apprentice.
But with true love always comes greater scrutiny.
Doubts arose over whether The Apprentice could still maintain its level of intrigue.
The anticipation was high for the last series, due to the long enforced break.
That break had the knock-on effect that it significantly reduced the gap between the last one and this.
Would too much Apprentice be a bad thing?
The answer is a resounding no.
Nearly eight million tuned in last week when The Apprentice roared back into life.
And it was clear to see there was a renewed fire in the belly of the ratings beast.
The most successful programmes always revitalise themselves in order to keep audience interest high.
The X Factor did it when a fourth category was added, splitting the younger group into male and female.
And there will be an attempt to present the departure of Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole from the next series as a shake-up, even though this is essentially a downgrade.
Big Brother attempted several half-hearted alterations, but was 99 per cent the same programme.
The audience will expect something different when Big Brother arrives on Five later this year, and a failure to deliver could spell disaster.
The interesting thing about the change to The Apprentice was that there was very little evidence to suggest one was needed. It has been a phenomenal success since it started – out-growing BBC2 and exploding when it arrived on BBC1.
Last year, at a time when people were doing their best to avoid anything finance or business-related, The Apprentice continued to flourish.
In a true demonstration of good business sense, rather than waiting for the decline, the producers have acted, to freshen the programme up.
Altering the prize might not seem like the most drastic of changes, especially as the format of each episode is essentially the same.
But the nature of the prize on offer means the nature of the winning candidate need not be the same as in the past.
Lord Sugar is no longer looking for an apprentice in the traditional sense of the word.
Because he wants a business partner, someone who he needs to mould is not the ideal candidate.
He needs someone who knows good ideas and how to make money already because he is gambling £250,000 on that person’s skills.
The change in the prize does change the dynamic, and that shift has already been seen.
Leon was in the firing line in both of the two opening episodes, making a hash of the project manager role in the second.
But his success with a novel online business prior to The Apprentice made him a more promising candidate than Alex, who had been hiding in the background in both episodes.
Northern Irishman Jim has been the outstanding candidate so far, but will he have the entrepreneurial spirit needed to win?
I didn’t think The Apprentice could surprise any more, and certainly never imagined it could get even better.
But it looks like Lord Sugar’s onto another winner.